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How to grab a larger bite of the growing snacking market

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Snacking is undergoing a huge shift with consumers opting for nutritious and hygienic snacking options. Here’s are some key trends driving the category and food retailers can adapt to them to get a larger portion of the action 

By Progressive Grocer Bureau

We are increasingly seeing the lines between snacks and meals blurring. Consumers accustomed to frequent snacking are more likely to feel tempted to snack at a meal occasion as well. Mintel research indicates that in a scenario where 48% of Indian consumers snack daily, snackification of meals is a good opportunity. 

Over a third (39%) of frequent snackers, or what we identified as Super Snackers, agree that snacks are a convenient replacement for meals. They prefer consuming products such as high-protein crisps, nuts and savory snacks over a proper meal.

In addition, our research reveals that these Super Snackers are more likely than others to look for healthy snacks. And this healthy snacking trend is more prominent among urban snackers and is also slowly percolating into lower-tier cities. Nearly half (48%) of Indian snackers look for a healthy product when choosing a snack all/most of the time, focusing on low fat and natural ingredients. 

Secondly, emotional well-being has become elusive for a majority of Indians, driving them to seek both comfort and pleasure in food and drink. Consumers crave for novel sensorial experiences, exploring diverse regional and globally inspired flavors in foods. 

Mintel Global Consumer research shows that 39% of Indians look for new foods/flavors to try most of the time. The need to explore coupled with the exposure to social media and cosmopolitan culture opens up opportunities for gourmet snacks with premium ingredients and flavors. 

Evening is prime snacking time, with consumers seeking adventurous options. Data from ‘Mintel Flavourscape AI’ platform reveals that hot and sweet, sweet and spicy and Korean flavors are emerging flavors in the salty snacks category. Brands can innovate with these novel flavors to catch the fancy of aspirational Indian consumers. 

The use of e-commerce and direct-to-consumer (DTC) channels has gained traction, particularly post-pandemic. In fact, a number of start-ups offering healthy snacks were able to garner consumer attention thanks to online channels. Mintel research reveals that 64% of consumers find these e-commerce apps ideal to discover new snacks.

Making snack offerings appealing to consumers

According to Mintel research, taste is a hygiene factor for the snacking category, which is non-negotiable in spite of the growing focus on other factors like health and novelty. 

Among Indians aged 18-26 years, over a third (35%) agree that tasty food comes to their mind when they think of snacks. This is because boosting the mood, satisfying a craving and treating oneself are some of the top snacking motivators cited by 1 in 2 Indian consumers. 

When asked to identify important attributes that would encourage them to choose one snack over the other, consumers prioritize health and novelty along with indulgence and satiety benefits. Within health factors, we see that plus claims such as added vitamins/minerals and added/high in protein are preferred over minus claims such as reduced calories. 

The interest in satiety, in a scenario where the lines between snacks and meals are blurring, is worth leveraging. In fact, ‘Mintel 2023 Food and Drink Trend Savvy Sustenance’ notes that foods offering satiety along with nutrition can justify value to consumers on a tight budget. Moreover, satiety can play an important role in weight management.

In addition, novelty and indulgence messaging can be used to motivate snack uptake. Novel flavors and formats can attract 3 in 10 snackers while intense flavors are of importance to at least 2 in 10 snackers aged 18-26 years.

Brands and retailers promoting snacks category with new innovations

Showcasing greater value is key to winning the over price-conscious Indian consumer. Brands are trying to differentiate on the basis of convenience, novelty, health, indulgence, permissibility and superior packaging. 

Brands like ProV and Bazana, for example, have launched affordable mini dry-fruit packs for on-the-go nutrition while Arun Ice creams, Gladful and Fresho feature bite-sized indulgent offerings.

Brand 4700BC introduced a crunchy corn snack in Hawaiian BBQ and Himalayan salt flavors, while Orion’s Turtle chips and Lays Gourmet Collection feature global flavors, offering consumers an elevated indulgence.

Modern bakery products such as doughnuts, waffles and cheesecake are gaining traction in India. Brands like Nova Nova, Waffle Mill, and Mody are taking inspiration from foodservice to introduce these products to provide affordable indulgence in a packaged format. 

Brand Doki differentiated itself with meat based snacks on the grounds of novelty and intense flavors. The brand makes interesting communication to explain its superiority over other high protein vegetarian snacks by calling out a high protein to calorie ratio. It also shows a commitment to offset carbon emissions.

Taking cues from global trends, Indian brands can explore plant-based options with ingredients like broad beans to provide satiety. Responding to the growing demand for healthy snacking, the launch of millet bread by Britannia, Sunfeast Farmlite Multi Millet Cookies by ITC and TATA Soulfull Masala Oats with 25% millets are big steps in bringing millets to the mainstream market. Innovations such as milletbased waffles, millet-based milk and millet-based cake mixes, though very niche, are emerging — giving consumers an opportunity to explore millets in an exciting way. 

Finally, D2C brand True Elements highlights the value of sustainability and transparency by facilitating recycling and producing biodiesel from recycled material.

Challenges in the snacks category

The Indian snacks category is crowded and competitive and poses a challenge to brands, especially the growing number of new entrants, in reaching consumers by finding retail shelf space and retaining the space at favorable terms.

 Price sensitivity is another key challenge. Indian consumers are price-conscious, and the rapid inflation has added to their concerns, making them tighten their purse strings. However, they aspire for superior quality, novelty and taste, making it challenging for brands to deliver these at a reasonable pricing. In fact, price sensitivity is a greater concern for the healthy snacking segment where products with plus, minus and additional health benefits are priced higher than the regular snacks. A third of Indians agree that healthy snacks are expensive to buy regularly. 

Despite the growing demand for healthier snacks, consumers are not fully embracing them as taste remains a key purchase motivator. Furthermore, there is a lack of consumer recognition for modern cooking techniques (e.g. popping, air frying, vacuum frying) that claim to be healthier. 

Mintel research reveals that though low fat is a top priority, the response to popped and baked products is underwhelming, pointing to the need to create more awareness around the benefits of these methods.

Healthy snacking, premiumization, and affordable price offering great value are the strongest trends in the snacks market today. Again, what is driving innovation in the segment is the need to balance taste and health without compromising on one or the other. Innovation in the snack segment will fuel future growth for both retailers and manufacturers, unleashing the untapped potential of this significant and growing category. 

This is an excerpt from the article titled ‘A gobsmacking choice of healthy and tasty treats’ published in the June Edition of Progressive Grocer. To read more such articles, subscribe to the magazine. 

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