A new blend: Salty snacks meet tea and coffee

October 11, 2018
4 min read

While salty snacks have explored seemingly endless flavors, there is one relatively untapped combination that has yet to properly test the snacking market. Tea and coffee have turned up in other food and drink products with their range of flavor notes and bases. While the vehicles for coffee and tea are limited, strong flavors currently popular in tea and coffee can pair well with nuts and potato snacks.

Salty snacks can tap into tea flavors

A number of tea flavors have been gaining popularity, with matcha and other green teas lending their flavor to a range of food categories. Black teas have also been bridging beverages to foods, as the smoky flavors of oolong and the floral notes of jasmine are appearing in sweet foods such as cakes and biscuits.

Few salty snacks take advantage of the complex range of tea flavors, which appear primarily in nuts, popcorn and rice snacks.

The wide range of tea flavors can be paired with a number of salty snacks

Consumers are looking to find the “right” way to enjoy food and tea. In Poland, three in ten tea drinkers are interested in learning about how to pair tea with food.

Interest in tea pairings can easily segue into the use of tea as a flavor note in foods, as shown by the 20% growth of matcha as a flavor for a range of categories over the past two years.

Salty snacks provide an excellent base for tea flavors, as there are a number of nut, rice and popcorn snacks with matcha already on the market. However, there is room to experiment beyond this trio of bases. For example, potato chips are neutral enough to carry tea flavors while fruit snacks play well with tea and spices.

Coffee, cappuccino and espresso appear in a range of categories

Coffee-inspired flavors, mocha, café au lait, cappuccino and espresso, are seen in sweet categories, such as sweet biscuits to flavored milk. While coffee flavors are not common in salty snacks, PepsiCo’s Frito Lay explored the concept in 2014 when it trialed cappuccino-flavored potato chips in its crowd-sourced “Do Us a Flavor” contest. Cappuccino Chips were edged out by Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger Chips and the product was discontinued.

Coffee flavors are underutilized in salty snacks

Coffee’s flavor complexities give it the potential to be paired with a range of other foods. In China, nearly half of coffee drinkers pair with “Western staples” such as hamburgers or sandwiches, and nearly one-third drink coffee with savory biscuits.

Such attitudes bode well for broadening flavor horizons in salty snacks. Coffee flavors would pair well with meat snacks, paralleling coffee-scented barbecue sauces. Less aggressive coffee flavors such as mocha, latte or café au lait can move beyond nuts and chips to grain-based snacks or snack mixes, paired with nuts and fruit such as dried orange pieces.

Coffee flavors in salty snacks are rare

Espresso popcorn

Joe & Seph’s Espresso Martini Gourmet Popcorn. This popcorn from the UK is coated with caramel infused with creamy coffee liqueur, vodka and a shot of espresso.


Cappuccino pecans

Hines Cappuccino Pecans. From the US, this limited edition product comprises pecans covered with a cappuccino-flavored topping.


Mocha chickpeas

Lebby Mocha Chickpea Snacks. While coffee flavors are primarily found in popcorn and nuts, this innovative product from the US comprises dry roasted Mediterranean-style chickpeas flavored with mocha.

What we think

Salty snack manufacturers can take advantage of the popularity and variety of tea and coffee flavors that have already gained acceptance as flavor ingredients in a range of food categories. Given the number of bases for salty snacks (nuts, potato snacks, rice snacks, etc), there is potential for a great number of combinations that will attract tea or coffee lovers.

Marcia Mogelonsky
Marcia Mogelonsky

Marcia Mogelonsky, Ph. D. is the Director of Insight, Food & Drink, at Mintel. Her expertise focuses on consumer behavior across a range of categories.

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