Although healthfulness is not often a key factor shoppers consider when buying a snack—particularly snacks that are impulse or on-the-go purchases—snack makers nevertheless are trying to provide better-for-you options. According to Innova Market Insights data, over 40% of global snack launches recorded in the 52 weeks ending October 2016 were positioned as healthy, rising to over 73% in the U.S.
The type of “healthy” claim used depends on the snack. The snacks market is highly diverse, and some snack types may focus on a different type of healthy claim or may make greater use of healthy claims overall. The snacks market, as defined by Innova Market Insights, includes not only traditional savory or salty snacks and snack nuts and seeds, but also products such as meat snacks, popcorn, and fruit-based snacks, as well as finger foods and hors d’oeuvres.
In the United States, the highest number of new product launches tends to occur in the traditional salty snacks and snack nuts and seeds category (representing nearly 64% of total snack launches). Marketers selling these types of products do not seem to be as interested in making healthy claims compared to other types of products in the snacks market. Among those products that do make claims, fruit snacks and meat snacks lead, with 86% of launches making a healthy claim. Popcorn is the next most active category, with 80% of launches making healthy claims.
The fruit snacks market is now very diverse and generally covers a number of categories, including dried fruit, fruit bars, and processed fruit snacks. The intrinsically natural and healthy image of fruit has helped to drive this market forward, and companies in this space will find that clean-label claims are relatively easy to make.
Half of the fruit snack launches recorded in the 12 months ending October 2016 used either a “natural” or “no additives/preservatives” claim. This rises to nearly 60% if organic claims are also included. Recent concerns over high sugar content in the diet have also resulted in the rising use of sugar content claims in fruit snacks, including “no added sugar,” “low sugar,” and “sugar free.” In fact, one-third of fruit snack launches carried these types of claims.
The U.S. meat snacks market is dominated by jerky-style products. Surprisingly, despite being relatively mature, this market has shown good growth in recent years as manufacturers have updated their product ranges to focus on a healthier image, more convenient packaging formats, and a greater choice of flavor options, particularly hot and spicy flavors.
A particular driver of the meat snacks market in the past few years has been the rising interest in protein content across the food and drinks spectrum as a whole. Meat snacks are well positioned to use protein content claims, with “high in” or “source of” protein claims featured in 60% of launches in the 12 months ending in October 2016 (up from less than 15% of launches five years previously).
The popcorn market is also relatively well developed in the U.S., although it remains one of the smallest sub-categories of the snacks market in terms of launch numbers, representing just under 9% of total snack launches. The good news is that popcorn has seen a faster growth rate than the snacks category as a whole in recent years.
Popcorn marketers present a healthy image, focusing on popcorn’s natural, low-calorie, and high-fiber properties. Marketers are also drawing interest through a growing variety of ever bolder and more complex flavors, both sweet and salty. In the wake of rising interest in “free from” foods, popcorn has also been able to take advantage of its gluten-free positioning, and in fact this type of claim has soared in the U.S., from being used on 20% of launches in 2011 to over 60% of launches today.
Nuts and Seeds
Even in snacks sub-categories where the use of healthy claims is more modest, claims can still have a significant effect on market performance. The share of nuts in global snack food launches has risen in recent years, for example, as nuts have found increasing favor as convenient and nutritious snacks. Increasing awareness of the potential health benefits of snack nuts and seeds and a growing focus on their nutritional value have been key in driving the market forward, with 63% of U.S. launches featuring healthy claims in the 12 months ending October 2016, well ahead of the global figure of near 40%.
A wide variety of healthy claims are used for these launches, with current interest in clean labeling and “free from” claims especially high. “Natural” and “no additives/ preservatives claims” are also popular claims for nuts and seeds; at least one of these claims were used on nearly 29% of nuts and seeds launches recorded last year, rising to nearly 39% if organic products are also included. Allergy and gluten-free claims also saw high levels of use in these products, each featuring in about 30% of launches. Other key claims are “high in/source of protein,” used for 21% of launches, as well as “high in/source of fiber,” used on over 16% of launches. There is also significant interest in “low cholesterol,” “low sodium,” “no trans fats,” and omega-3 fatty acid claims.
As the definition of snacking continues to broaden, high levels of new product and promotional activity are continuing to help drive sales and interest in snack products. And while offering a relatively healthy profile appears to continue to be important, it is perhaps still less of a driver in some instances than other factors, such as the current focus on premium and super-premium products, often with unusual flavors and ingredients; the development of existing brands; the use of new ingredients and formats; and the targeting of new usage occasions.
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