Clean-label, gluten-free help savory snacks soar

Despite ongoing economic difficulties, new product activity in the global snack foods industry appears to be continuing unabated.

March 30, 2012

Despite ongoing economic difficulties, new product activity in the global snack foods industry appears to be continuing unabated. Launch numbers recorded by Innova Market Insights showed a strong double-digit increase in 2011. Savory and salty snacks accounted for just under two-thirds of the total, and snack nuts and seeds the remainder.

Asia and Latin American saw the biggest increases in snacks launch numbers over the year, with high levels in these relatively underdeveloped regions disguising lower levels of growth in more mature markets, particularly the United States, but also parts of Western Europe. Launches in Asia accounted for nearly 40% of total snacks introductions, ahead of Europe with just below 30%. Within Europe, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands had some of the highest levels of product activity, reflecting relatively high per capita consumption levels in these countries.

Lu Ann Williams, Research Manager at Innova Market Insights, believes that despite the increasing competition from other snacks, savory snacks and nuts are more than holding their own, largely via growing emphasis on authenticity, originality, strong and exotic flavors, and more convenient packaging concepts, often supported by a healthy or natural angle and strong branding.

Overall, despite the often fairly low level of interest in health in purchasing decisions for impulse products such as snacks, nearly 40% of launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in 2011 had a health positioning of some kind, mainly with regard to passive benefits, such as whole grain, organic, gluten-free, or low and light, but also to a much lesser degree active benefits, such as vitamin- and mineral-fortification, levels of omega 3 fatty acids, or bone health. This rises to over 60% in the United States.

The rise of gluten-free products has also been fairly dramatic, with nearly 10% of global snacks launches using that platform in 2011, rising to over 20% in the United States, with the number of gluten-free launches internationally tripling over a five-year period.

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