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The face of the global snack foods market is changing, with demand for more natural and healthy options generating significant diversification in product formulations. For example, baked snacks are taking over from fried products, while manufacturers are also looking for alternatives to the core potato or corn ingredients that have long dominated the category. This is placing pressure on ingredients companies to deliver new options for snacks formulators, with a strong focus on naturalness.
Alternative flours are benefiting the most from this trend, with rice flour finding favour as a key ingredient in many new-generation snack formats. Most recently, however, attention has also been turning to beans and pulses, with the emergence of a number of new brands featuring bean-based flours or powders as their base ingredients.
This trend has been most prevalent in the US, which continues to lead the way in snacks innovation. For example, in 2012, Mediterranean Snack Foods launched Hummuz snacks based on garbanzo bean flour, corn flour and potato starch, while Enjoy Life introduced a range of Plentils snacks based on lentil powder and potato starch. More recently, LesserEvil has launched Chia Crisps, which use black bean powder and rice flour as the core ingredients as well as adding chia seeds for a
stronger health positioning.
Demand for alternative flours is certainly outpacing that of more traditional wheat flours throughout the food and drinks industry, and in sweet and savoury snacks applications, ‘other flours’ are forecast to grow at a CAGR of 4.3% between 2012 and 2017, which is almost four times faster than wheat flours. It is perhaps more useful, though, to compare the performance of these flours with the commodity ingredients that are most widely used in the snacks market and here too ‘other flours’ come out ahead, increasing at a forecast rate that is one or two percentage points ahead of cereals (3.2%) and potatoes (2.5%).
It is not just flours that are being targeted for snacks innovation, however, with vegetable commodities also seeing rising demand and these are set to show even faster growth in snacks markets over 2012-2017, rising at a projected CAGR of almost 7%. Again, there has been some interesting NPD in vegetable ingredients in the US over the past couple of years. For example, SniKiddy launched Eat Your Vegetables snacks last year, with the base ingredients being navy beans, dried potato and rice flour. Similarly, the US market has seen a wider range of snacks based
on sweet potato in place of standard potatoes, while Turbana offers a range of Plantain Chips and Rhythm Superfoods has even developed a selection of crisps made from kale.
There are no indications as yet that the current craze for all things natural will come to an end any time soon so ingredients suppliers need to be ready for further diversification in the choices made by snacks manufacturers. This will impact on both commodities suppliers through demand for alternative vegetable, bean and grain commodities as well as suppliers of more advanced and technical ingredients through the need for more diverse flours and starches.