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Latest research from the world’s leading market intelligence agency Mintel reveals that Asia is home to four out of five of the world’s top innovators in salty snacks. Indeed, Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) reveals that China leads in salty snacks innovation, accounting for 11% of the world’s salty snacks product launches in 2018*. The US follows with 8%, India with 7%, and Indonesia and Japan both with 5% each—rounding up the world’s top five salty snacks innovators.

The Chinese are also global leaders in salty snacks eating: Mintel estimates** that China’s snack food market reached a retail volume of 5,521 thousand tonnes in 2018. The US follows with 3,754 thousand tonnes, India 1,300 thousand tonnes, Japan 582 thousand tonnes and Mexico 557 thousand tonnes.

Marcia Mogelonsky, Director of Insight, Mintel Food & Drink, said:

“Snacking is big business all over the world, especially in Asia where we’re seeing the greatest market potential. Home to four out of five of the world’s biggest salty snacks innovators, Asia, particularly China, is currently driving the global snack industry. The future of the Indian snack market is also promising. It’s not just India’s growing population that is driving innovation, but also the wide-ranging flavour choices and food traditions in the country. And as more ‘foodies’ emerge across Asia, consumers are interested in experimenting with foods and flavours from more than just their home province or country, making pan-Asian innovation an exciting area.

Asia sweet on chocolate salty snacks

One area of growth for the global snack industry lies in flavour migration. For example, chocolate-flavored salty snacks that were originally popularised in the US are now proving to be more popular in Asia. Mintel GNPD shows that chocolate first appeared as a salty snack flavour in the US with products appearing as early as 2000. In 2018, more chocolate-flavoured salty snacks were launched in Japan (12%) than in the US (8%). From a regional perspective, Asia Pacific accounted for 58% of all chocolate-flavoured salty snack launches in 2018, followed by EMEA (19%), and then North America (10%).

Flavours are migrating from their region of origin to other markets as consumers share more traditions, ingredients, menus and recipes. Chocolate—be it dark, milk, or white, on its own or with other ingredients—has moved into salty snacks, bridging the sweet-savoury divide. A flavour with universal appeal, chocolate has lent itself well to the ‘sweet and salty’ taste that is becoming popular across the world, and more recently in Asia.” Marcia continued.

New and surprising flavour combinations

Flavour innovation is also pivotal in driving the global snack industry, and it seems consumers in Asia are warming up to the idea of sweet and salty flavoured snacks. Indeed, Mintel research reveals that two-fifths (40%) of urban Indonesians would like to try dishes with a combination of sweet and savoury flavours, while half (50%) of urban Chinese consumers are interested in trying snacks with an exotic flavour (eg sweet and salty).

“As competition in the snack food industry stiffens, brands need to offer new and pleasantly surprising products to stand out. Exploring different styles of flavour combination can be interesting, particularly as it introduces the element of novelty to consumers. For manufacturers in Asia, success will rely on finding the right balance between sweet and savoury—especially with current interest levels among Asian consumers.” Marcia concluded.

*January to December 2018
**2018 estimate