Ayisha Koyenikan
As a Global Food & Drinks Analyst, Ayisha provides insights to clients in Europe and around the world in the prepared meals and bakery sectors.

For some consumers, the threat of the virus, and for many, sheer boredom, has prompted a shift to an earlier dinnertime now that evening commutes have been removed and many after-work/school activities are yet to restart. This change in behaviour presents an opportunity for cookie and cracker brands as earlier dinners could create more demand for late evening snacks.

COVID-19 accelerated an already growing ‘hyper-nesting’ trend

As observed by UK food delivery app Just Eat, Brits have shifted to earlier meal times during lockdown. Consumers who have been forced to ‘stay at home’ have adapted to making the most of the situation, enjoying ‘big nights in’, hunkering down in the comfort of their homes and finding shared activities such TV marathon sessions to enjoy. 

As technology drives ‘hometainment’, and a more anxious generation Z (born between 1995-2007) emerges, time spent at home keeps rising. A recession will accelerate this pre-existing cocooning trend, heralding the era of ‘hyper-nesting’. Against this backdrop, cookie and cracker brands should not miss the opportunity to position themselves as the ideal snacks for evening sharing and treating, fighting against strong competition for evening/social snacks from options such as crisps and popcorn.

Help stressed home-workers unwind and rest

Mintel wrote about the ‘Bedtime Biscuits’ opportunity at the start of 2019; hectic modern lifestyles were creating a market for nighttime products helping people calm down before bed, sleep better and restore the body whilst at rest. The anxiety and stress unleashed by COVID-19 make this an even bigger opportunity now.

Stress and sleep claims remain niche, with less than 1% of global food and drink launches making such claims in 2020. But this is an area that is growing year-on-year from a low base. The pandemic could mean ‘first movers’ amongst established cookie/cracker brands are pushing on an open door. 

The ability to make stress and sleep claims varies greatly by region – for example, there is just one EU approved health claim for sleep: melatonin. Utilising ingredients that consumers link to relaxation is another route, like this Verbena product containing lavender, as well as niacin.

Verbena Mini Biscuits with Lavender and Blueberry Pieces (Hungary)

Source: Mintel GNPD

Disrupt packaging and format to position cookies and crackers as evening treats

Although special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries were spent by many in some form of lockdown in the past year, some innovative treat and snack formats have emerged from this difficult time, helping consumers make the most of in-home sharing occasions with the ones they love.

This M&S “After dinner” mint chocolate box, for example, opens into a mini table and reduces the distance from mouth to box, making it a very convenient and premium treat.

Marks and Spencer After Dinner Mint Chocolates (UK)

Source: Marks and Spencer

Develop snacks for specific evening activities

Snack brands could innovate packaging to elevate snacks into premium sharing options in front of the TV, target gamers with products that don’t detract from gameplay, and pair snacks to alcoholic/non alcoholic drinks for in-home drinking occasions.

Snacks specifically developed for consumption with alcohol could find favour in the months and years to come. For example, Glico’s Japanese biscuit brand Pocky’s Ruby Goddess Sticks are to be dunked into red wine and is endorsed by alcohol brand Suntory Wine Ltd.

Ruby Goddess Chocolate-Coated Biscuit Sticks (Japan)

Source: Mintel GNPD

With the trend towards alcohol moderation growing, especially amongst younger consumers, snack brands could create snacks that pair specifically with low-/non-alcoholic drinks. Suggesting pairings with alcohol also makes the categories less reliant on hot drink pairings, which have a seasonal component.

Snacks will play a key role in at-home entertaining occasions post-pandemic

COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out globally, heralded as our vehicle back to ‘normality’. It is likely, however, that we will live with the threat of infection and social distancing for some time, and many consumers will still feel nervous to dine out.

Once socialising indoors is allowed, some guests might prefer to host a handful of guests at home than eat out in a group, and when they do host at home, snacks have a huge role to play. Here, premium, shareable cookies and cracker products will come into play.

Aldi Artisan Baked Somerset Cheddar Crackers

Source: Mintel GNPD

The premium bag format makes these crackers interesting. This limited edition product has been hand-baked in small batches by artisan bakers, and is said to be perfect for snacking, sharing or dipping.