The snack foods of the future will combine flavour and health
It’s nothing new that consumers are increasingly looking for healthy foods that improve their quality of life. This is a trend that also applies to snack foods and appetisers consumed between meals. In fact, the dividing line between snack foods and what is considered proper food is becoming more and more unclear. Adults, who lead increasingly complicated lives, look for snack foods that fulfil the function of a full meal. And snack food manufacturers have started looking for alternatives to meet this new demand.
Functional snack foods: texture, flavour and new ingredients
Functional snack foods are suitable for consumption by all age groups and all sectors of the population. From office workers to people who play a lot of sport. They are gaining in popularity very quickly because, thanks to them, less healthy snack foods are being replaced by other nutritious ones, and with a lower calorie content.
Until quite recently, protein shakes were associated with gym users, and meal replacement shakes were associated with the people on weight-control diets. Nowadays, food manufacturers produce energy bars, desserts with the aspect of dairy products and high-nutrient smoothies. The consumption of this type of product is becoming increasingly widespread.
Some of these functional foods are obtained from egg white or microalgae, for example. The egg white is treated with an enzyme that breaks down the proteins present in the egg into smaller fragments. The process is called hydrolysis and results in a variety of new textures.
However, the general opinion of consumers is that the functional snack food industry can make further progress in terms of achieving more natural flavours and more agreeable textures. The reason is that, when opting for a healthy snack food, many consumers pass over food perceived as more desirable. For example, crisps or chocolates. Although it may seem contradictory, the same consumers who choose functional snack foods because they are healthy want this choice to include a reward in the form of a texture and flavour similar to what they find in foods they prefer not to consume. In this respect, the food industry needs to take into account the way the reward system works.
Why are these new snack foods referred to as functional?
The reason is that, in addition to being more nutritious and containing less sugar, they help the body to more effectively carry out some of its functions. To be precise, first and foremost they are a source of very high-quality proteins. In addition, they contain virtually no fat.
And, above all, these snack foods are expected to help the body function better. Thus, these high-protein foods have already begun to play a central role in light suppers. During the night the body regenerates tissues and, to do so, it uses proteins. The proteins without fat that we are talking about fulfil this function perfectly.
Natural snack foods for adults
Until not too long ago the afternoon snack was something for children. But the food industry has observed how the tendency among adults to consume snack foods has increased significantly. One of the reasons lies in the recommendations of the WHO. In particular, as regards eating five times a day. This has prompted consumers to change their eating habits. And also to demand new products.
Similarly, the type of snack food that is and will be consumed is typified by the abandonment of fats and sugars and the incorporation of new foods such as chia. Nonetheless, consumers tend to see food as a source of pleasure despite being worried about their health. So they look for fun snack foods that are different and at the same time make them feel healthy. In this respect, there has been an increase in the consumption of energy bars containing seeds, cereals and honey. Chocolate is losing ground in favour of nuts and cereals, while honey has replaced sugar in many cases. This way the consumers continue to eat sweet and crunchy snack foods but also take care of their health. The two things consumers expect from a snack food are brought together: pleasure and health.
Dairy snack foods for adults
The increase in sales of dairy products consumed as snack foods is one of the consequences of these new food trends. There is an increasing demand among adults for new products derived from dairy products. The biggest difference between dairy products for children and those for adults is their presentation. In the case of children gamification is given priority, while products aimed at the adult public go for the inclusion of ingredients that make them functional snack foods. Consequently, yogurts with fibre are already well established in the market while those that contain seeds such as poppy seeds or cereals such as oats are currently looking for a niche.
In conclusion, snacks manufacturers need to take into account both the health-giving aspects of their products and the fact that they must offer a pleasant sensory experience. The search for pleasure through food is so great that Europe is now witnessing a more than curious phenomenon. The fact is that, while the sales of healthy snacks increase, so do the sales of premium products little related to health, such as chocolates and some types of pâté. Total success is reserved for those healthy products that offer the same sensory experience as the so-called “sin foods”, such as chocolate itself.
In Sensory Value we can help you find out how the consumers value your products in this respect.