Whether they are tasty distractions or late-night fixes, consumers are eating more snacks than ever. The snacking industry in the US alone is worth over $77bn.
And strong innovation has been absolutely central to the category’s success.
From liquid lunches to genre-bending inventions that see our sweet favourites morph into weird and wonderful forms that elicit curiosity (‘duffin’ anyone?) - from designer functional fuel to Mad Hatter flavour transfusions inspired by molecular gastronomy - snacks are being constantly reinvented. They have charmed even the most stalwart of foodies and health junkies to become an exciting hotbed for innovation and creativity - from flavour and format to packaging.
Snacking has long been maligned with bad diet, but nearly half of consumers eat snacks as a meal alternative and nearly 40% consume snacks to regulate their weight. Indeed, snacks today embrace a plethora of healthy options. In the same way that more indulgent snacks have scaled down portions so consumers can enjoy a little of what they like without overeating, mainstream brands are revamping their offering to woo the more health-conscious. Ritz, for example, pioneered a lower-calorie version with Ritz Crisp & Thin, and many rivals have followed suit.
No longer unappetising ‘rabbit fodder’, health snacks are now packaged to make the integrity of the ingredients tangible and part of the appeal and design. We’ve also seen innovation change the way we consume our 5 a day. Loving Earth’s range of kale chips posits vegetables as a tasty alternative to crisps, and Graze provides us with a tantalising bento box of exotic pulses, nuts and flavoured grains. Even cereal brands have made the bowl and spoon redundant by turning breakfast into a drink.
Be it pleasure hit or energy boost, today’s consumers can have it all, on the go and in the thick of the action. If it can keep the current pace of innovation goign,there’s no doubt we will see more inspired inventions from this eyeopening category in the future.
Ed Silk is strategy director at global and brand & packaging design agency Bulletproof