Battle of the snacks: healthy or indulgent?

Posted: 29 June 2021 | | No comments yet

New Food’s Editor, Bethan Grylls, examines the polar opposite trends of indulgent and healthy snacks and places her bets on how the future will unfold.

Kallo battle of the snacks

We’ve been seeing two distinctly opposing trends running parallel with equal success over the last couple of years. On one side of the ring is the healthy snack – flooding our social media feeds as much as the exercise influencer’s next HIIT routine – and on the other is the decadent snack, oozing indulgence and offering comfort during tough times.

So how has this happened and which snack will win the hearts of consumers?

A new mindset on snacking

Snacking, which was once considered a habit to break, has become a way of life and some assert that, contrary to popular belief, the more consumers snack, the healthier their eating behaviours are.1

According to a report from the NPD Group, consumers use snacking to incorporate healthier foods into their diets. Those with the healthiest diets consume 36 percent more snack meals annually than the average consumer.1

So does this mean chocolate orange is the new black? Not quite.

As I mentioned, we’re seeing two rather different trends in the snacking category. Indulgence and comfort have undoubtedly risen in popularity since the pandemic, but the treats which the healthiest ‘snackers’ are consuming comprise a wide variety of fruit, yoghurts and bars.

kallo snacks

This new outlook could provide the food sector with opportunity to innovate differently when it comes to snacking.

One such company to have leveraged this new attitude to snacks is Kallo. The rice cake brand, already known for its healthy goodies, spotted increasing consumer favour for vegetable-based products, particularly in the crisp category.

“We’ve seen snacking occasions increase by 1.9 million this year compared to 2020,” Hayley Murgett, Brand Controller for Kallo at Ecotone UK, told New Food.

“The market’s been growing significantly over the last few months, and we’ve seen a real surge in sales for Kallo. One of the biggest drivers for this growth has been our veggie cakes.”

This latest innovation is made with a pea and lentil base and combined with other intense vegetable flavours such as pesto and beetroot.

Intense flavours and product benefits

“One of the biggest barriers for rice cakes is taste perception – there’s an outdated idea that rice cakes are bland, boring and functional. We wanted to flip that on its head with these new flavours, but in a way that was still good-for-you; ie, without the addition of artificial additives.”

You may have seen Kallo’s campaign ‘better by nature’ which encourages consumers to eat naturally-derived ingredients. I questioned Murgett on their use of the term “natural sources” to describe the brand’s products, over the term “natural”. She explained that despite Kallo’s rice cakes having minimal processing, the ingredients do of course undergo an element of processing as they enter the factory and proceed through a production line. This is an interesting concept and I wonder how many consumers understand the difference between processed and overly processed? Perhaps there’s some untapped marketing potential there…

We are all very familiar with the demands for high protein and fibre, but what was an especially nifty move by Kallo was to also leverage the trend for veganism and vegetarianism. “More and more consumers are looking to plants for their protein intake,” Murgett explained.

This latest innovation is made with a pea and lentil base and combined with other intense vegetable flavours such as pesto and beetroot.

Kallo is now delighting in the success of its newly launched flavours but finding the right combinations in the first place wasn’t an easy ride. “We went down this super healthy route – I think it was a mix of spinach and kale…it really didn’t work,” Murgett laughed. “It was a case of finding interesting and healthy flavours that complimented one another – not the easiest process but an interesting one in which we learnt a lot.”

Exciting flavours has been another trend to hit the food industry – and Murgett noted the snacking category as one particular sector that can benefit from experimentation.

“People are much more receptive to trying new and different things in the snack category, so it’s important to bear that in mind when innovating. However, there will always be room for traditional snacks – the ones we all know and love and revert back to; let’s face it, salt and vinegar is not going anywhere.”

kallo snacks Traditional and indulgent

Prior to the pandemic we were seeing a demand for healthier foods; people were becoming more aware and interested in their wellness and the food they consumed. This trend – like many things – was thrust into ‘turbo mode’ when the true impacts of Covid became apparent. Vitamin-rich foods have become a must-have in shoppers’ baskets. And the health trend was only accelerated as news broke that obesity increased the risk of falling severely ill with the virus.

However, perhaps an equal number of consumers also sought comfort through savoury and sweet snacks. It’s not surprising that we saw such a drive for treats during this period – the same thing happened during the Great Recession of 2008-2010.2

Research by Mintel3 further confirms a correlation between stress eating and snacking. As such, the analysts suggest that industry has a responsibility to “eliminate the potential for guilt” by creating snacks with “functional benefits and/or mood-elevating ingredients”.

As Kallo has done, manufacturers should explore ingredients that offer nutritional benefits, such as nuts and seeds, and consider how they can (honestly) incorporate claims such as ‘energising’ and ‘calming’.

“The snacks market keeps expanding and diversifying and we don’t envision it shrinking. There’s so much more choice now and what’s considered a snack has evolved,” commented Murgett in reference to the market’s evolution.

Essentially, consumers want the world; so producers, you’re just going to have to give it to them.

Chocolate has experienced a slight slump in recent months, however. Traditionally, Easter would have seen shoppers’ trolleys filled with bunnies and chicks, but this year, Easter chocolate counted for a mere 10 percent of all chocolate product launched in the last 12 months. The reason, according to Mintel, was a lack of innovation, which fell by 25 percent.4

It wasn’t just Easter that experienced a hiccup; in fact, all seasonal confectionery saw a dip, while new product development in the chocolate industry saw an overall decline of 14 percent.4
Covid put pressure on budgets, causing a temporary stall to innovation; and with specialist outlets and other brick-and-mortar options closed, the usual channels which tempted consumers to buy chocolate were also stifled.4

Final thoughts

So, indulgence vs. health – who is our winner? I believe that inevitably this fight will end in a draw – if, of course, it ever ends.
Increased focus on health and wellness – particularly in the last year – has further emphasised a need for low and zero sugar options. Yet Mintel research suggests the reduced sugar market for chocolate remains “bumpy”, with sugar‑adjusted chocolate being responsible for less than four percent of global launches – climbing a feeble three percent from the previous year.4

There will always be room for indulgence, and it appears that consumers will always opt for traditional chocolate over their sugarless counterparts.
There may have been a slump in seasonal chocolate innovation, but as things begin to open up again, new and unique products will come to market. As Kallo has demonstrated with its veggie cakes, snacks that feed on that appetite for something new will do well. If a product can offer functional health claims too, you’re probably onto a winner.

Saying this, consumer preference will always be dictated by one main driver: taste. You can be as healthy and as different as you like, but if your product doesn’t hit the ‘tastebud spot’, it’s not going to work.

Ultimately, the battle of snacks will end in a hybrid option whereby indulgence – commonly deemed as tastier – will merge with snacks with wellness in mind. We are already seeing this hybrid mindset making its way into the snacking arena; as for chocolate, I honestly believe sugar will always have its place as much as reduced and zero options may persist.

Essentially, consumers want the world; so producers, you’re just going to have to give it to them. Time to get creative. 




Hayley Murgett is Brand Controller for Kallo at Ecotone UK.



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