Factors such as increasing casualisation of jobs and increased participation of women, and especially mothers, in the workforce have seen traditional mealtimes change as snacking is replacing the standard three meals per day in Australia. Indeed, Mintel research reveals close to one in three (31%) Australian consumers say they sometimes eat snacks instead of having a meal.

Australians are relying more and more on snacks not just to relieve hunger pangs but for nourishment. This is fuelling demand for healthier snacks containing superfoods such as kale smoothies or a protein-packed bar. However, judging from the popularity of unashamedly indulgent foods, it seems Australians have not lost their appetite for treats either.

On the face of it, it could appear consumers just don’t know what they want. For years, they have clamoured for healthy menu items but sales figures frequently prove that indulgence often wins at the end of the day. However, it just demonstrates that rather than undecided, consumers are multifaceted and they increasingly find balance by going to extremes. As such, both the super-healthy snack and the over-the-top treat are winning, while every day, plainer fare is likely to struggle.

Looking at trends in healthy snacks, it is all about portable nutrition. Consumers are seeking snacks that contain ingredients more commonly found in a main meal such as vegetables and protein. Superfoods are in demand because they are a quick fix, and relieve the ‘nutrition anxiety’ of consumers leading fast-paced lives and skipping meals. Mintel’s 2017 Global Food & Drink Trend ‘Power to the Plants’ plays a major influence on such snacks. While protein is sought after, health-conscious consumers are increasingly seeking plant-based protein in their snacks, rather than traditional dairy-based whey protein. Be Natural snack bars exemplify this trend with the “Plant Power” slogan they use on the front of their packs.

Be Natural row

Today’s social media obsessed consumer is pushing innovation of indulgent snacks to new extremes. They want something worth photographing and sharing, and have an insatiable appetite for exciting new flavours, textures and colours. This can be seen by the number of brands now opening pop-ups, or retail outlets that provide consumers with creative opportunities to customise their favourite snacks, showing that experience is yet another factor that will win consumers over. Magnum, Allen’s confectionery, Nutella and Kit Kat are just a few examples that have offered consumers the opportunity to create the treat of their dreams, with an array of ingredients to flavour and decorate, as well as access to personalised labelling.

As consumers seek more nutrient-dense offerings, snacks are an ideal vehicle to deliver superfoods to time-pressed, health-conscious consumers and provide free-from alternatives to dairy proteins. Aspirations for healthier and “cleaner” lifestyles are motivating consumers to prioritise plant-based ingredients. Snack manufacturers should look to include fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and botanicals to align with the shift towards plant-based diets.

Consumers are still looking for that moment of indulgence and, despite the demand for healthier snacks, a parallel interest in over-the-top indulgences has also developed. To help consumers find the balance, brands need to cater to the extremes.

Snack attack is one of a series of articles featured in Mintel’s Insights into Australia and New Zealand thought piece, a selection of consumer-centered articles on Australia and New Zealand’s food and drink market. Download the thought piece for more information.

Jodie Minotto is a Global Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel. She has more than 13 years of experience in sales, marketing and market research roles, predominantly in the food and beverage industry, working for both global CPG companies and SMEs. Her expertise lies in the dairy, confectionery, meal solutions, snack foods, beer and wine categories.

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