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Snacks were a big part of lockdown comfort, as days dragged into weeks and into months, restricted to our own four walls and a daily walk. There was plenty of time to binge-watch Netflix during those months of restriction, and indulgent snacking became part of the ritual. As Aline Burgmann, co-founder of dried fruit snacks Kooky puts it, “During the pandemic, snacking was seen as one of life’s biggest indulgences and one thing we relied on to break the monotony of lockdown life.”
But as we enter the new normal, consumers are purchasing snacks more intentionally and looking for brands and experiences in their purchases that align with their values without compromising on top-quality taste. This evolution of snacking has sparked innovation across the industry and created new stocking opportunities for indie retailers. It’s time to take a fresh look at conscious snacking to discover the products that will keep you bang on trend in the coming months.
Coming out of a pandemic that forced everyone to suddenly evaluate their health and take precautions to protect it, healthy snacks and challenger brands are growing in popularity with consumers seeking out more nutritious options.
As Vivien Lambe, co-founder of lentil crisps brand Source of the Earth explains, “Consumer habits have changed as the pandemic has developed. Access to healthier foods during the pandemic was often not available and while the supermarkets were able to supply the majority of products, many independent outlets were unable to open. We saw a massive shift from individual bags to sharing bags, but this has now gone full circle. Coming out the other side of the pandemic, we’ve seen a shift in consumers being more focused on their health, but they’re also price-sensitive due to rising costs.”
This is something Aline is acutely aware of in her business. “The pandemic has shifted the spotlight on the importance of health and healthy snacking. Now more than ever, consumers are on the lookout for snacks that are not only delicious, but also high in vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants, as well as no added sugar options that are free from additives.”
In fact, according to Julia Azevedo, founder of cacao cashew brand Karu, healthy snacks have evolved to become an easy meal for the younger generation. “There is a strong interest in better-for-you snacks, which have healthy qualities, such as plant-based protein, minerals, and no allergens, with 65% of consumers saying they make better-for-you choices when buying food and beverages (GutCheck, 2020).
“The pandemic accelerated healthy snacking trends, as well as snacking as a meal replacement. Research published by The Harris Poll/Mondelez shows that 64% of consumers replaced a meal for snacking in 2021. These numbers are even higher if you look at Gen Z and Millennial responders. Having nutritious and indulgent snack options is here to stay.
“That’s central to how Karu was developed, our cashew snacks are meant to be better for you and the planet – while always prioritizing taste and the overall experience.”
While fine food is all about quality and taste, consumers are still hunting for something nutritious after the pandemic, so getting the balance between health and flavour right is important when considering brands to stock.
Return of on-the-go
With the world opening up for travel-starved consumers to visit far-flung places once again, the opportunity for snacking is widening. Long journeys require exciting and delicious snacks to ease boredom and provide easy, on the go fuel.
According to Vivien, this means “We should also see an increased demand for convenient on-the-go snacks as consumers make short or long-haul trips, hit the gym, resume face-to-face meetings and eat on the move. Snack packs are handy on-the-go options and while they may have been shelved (literally!) for the past 2 years and replaced by family packs, they are likely to see revived demand.”
The return of on-the-go is something Julia also envisions for the foreseeable, “We believe that after a few years of being at home, cooking and baking people want to return to the collective experiences, concerts, parks, sharing, and travelling. They are looking for something tasty and innovative in snacking to go with it.”
Scott Cooper, managing director of Chika’s snacks, added, “We can already see a clear rebound in convenience channels and on-the-go pack formats. Brands will be redoubling their innovation programmes and extending their on-the-go offerings to maximise value on the go occasions.”
A new sustainability study from Kantar, found that almost half of households (49%) said the Covid-19 pandemic has made sustainability even more important to them. In fact, Kantar predicts that over half of UK households will be eco-actives by 2029, meaning they are shoppers ‘highly concerned about the environment’ and acting accordingly.
“Conscious consumption is more relevant than ever and many consumers are increasingly educated and are more intentional when it comes to their purchases, aligning consumption patterns with their values”, Aline explains. “They are more discerning when it comes to what ingredients are used, where they are sourced from, as well as how they are produced. We believe that people now make concerted decisions to purchase from companies with similar values.”
She continued, “Being a member of 1% for the planet is extremely important to us and our commitment to our children and our customers that we care. We pledge to give 1% of our total sales (not profits) to help fund the many diverse environmental organisations so that collectively, they can be a more formidable source in solving the world’s problems in 6 core areas that include climate, food, land, pollution, water and wildlife.”
Vivien also champions creating eco-friendly snacks for the conscious consumer. “We didn’t want our snacks to leave a mark on the planet. Single-use plastic is a scourge on our world. Plastic packaging used to be the only available option but thankfully there are other options available now. Consumers are rightly demanding more from the products they purchase, and we wanted to give them a simple way to make a difference to their health and the planet.”
When it comes to who can provide this, consumers trust independent retailers stocking smaller ethical brands with purpose more than larger chains (EIT Trust Report 2021). Scott explains, “Consumers are increasingly seeking brands they can trust to deliver on taste, with wholesome, healthier credentials, made with good ingredients, and with a good ethos – a social purpose. Consumers no longer trust large corporate legacy brands to deliver on this, and instead are turning towards authentic and passionate challenger brands.”
The future of snacking
The pandemic changed the food industry forever, but taste was never off the agenda (unless of course, you had Covid). As Julia puts it, “The definition of snacking has evolved significantly, and we believe it will continue to change. Snacking is no longer limited to unhealthy foods or consumed only on the go.”
Aline agreed, adding, “The ever-discerning consumer will be on the lookout for more healthy snacks as opposed to those that are laden with sugar, trans fats or empty calories. They will also be more mindful of the brand’s ethics and companies’ identities and will take these into account when making decisions, whether they are shopping online or in-store.”
“The long-term trends towards snacking, driven by less formal meal occasions and on-the-go lifestyles, will continue unabated in the years to come”, Scott predicts. “We can expect to see continued diversification in brands, increased polarisation across healthier to indulgent brands, and growing premiumisation as consumers demand more from snacks, and brands build ‘worth paying more for’ credentials. The days of the dull, middle of the road, corporate legacy brands are numbered!”
Vivien concluded, “Consumers are more aware of their health and the planet, and they want to reduce the amount of plastic used in their households. Taste is always going to come first when choosing a snack, but we believe consumers want to know their products come from socially conscious brands who are investing in making a difference.”
With consumers already convinced of the benefits of conscious snacking, it’s up to retailers to stock the right products to satisfy the demand.