Snacking is an indispensable part of today’s consumers’ diets. According to Euromonitor International’s global survey data, 75% of consumers say they eat snacks outside the home at least once a week, with more than half of these consumers snacking at least three times a week. Snacking habits are also changing. Savory snacks are being increasingly preferred to sweet snacks due to obesity concerns, low sugar content, rising protein hype and government and retailer initiatives to limit sugar consumption. From 2009-14, sweet and savory snacks was the fastest growing snack category, outpacing confectionery and sweet biscuits. However, savory snack bars are still missing from retailers’ aisles, with the category being dominated by muesli/granola bars, which have cereal and sugar as their main ingredients. The recent launch of savory flavored bars from Mediterra Inc in the US aims to fill this gap by providing “the first-ever savory bars” to serve as an alternative to sweet snacks. Given snack bars’ rather limited penetration, how likely is it that savory snack bars will become a global snack craze just like crisps?
Reaching out to consumers in emerging markets
With US$13 billion retail sales in 2014, snack bars was the smallest snack category globally, and, in terms of absolute growth, it lagged behind all the other snack categories. One of the primary reasons for this is the category’s lack of presence in some of the fastest-growing regions in the world, such as Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Asia Pacific. In 2014, 77% of the global sales of snack bars came from North America and Western Europe whilst less than 5% stemmed from Middle East and Africa. This should come as no great surprise, given the fact that the category is dominated by players like General Mills and Kellogg, which primarily focuses on cereals, the consumption of which is very low in high-growth emerging markets like Asia Pacific. Consumers in these markets prefer savory over sweet, particularly for breakfast, but also for snacking between meals. By developing savory snack bars, manufacturers can appeal to the taste buds of the growing consumer base in emerging markets that is not only increasing its per capita spend on snacks but also snacking more frequently than consumers in developed markets.
Tapping into the lifestyle trend
In North America and Western Europe, where snack products are approaching maturity, creating white space is very important, and one way of doing so is through the launch of lifestyle products. By emphasizing particular lifestyles, such as the Mediterranean lifestyle in the case of Mediterra snack bars, manufacturers can create added value and invigorate stagnating categories. This lies behind the success of Nakd bars in the UK, which were launched as gluten- and dairy-free munchies that only boast three simple ingredients and reached sales of more than US$22 million within just three years of their launch in 2011. Similarly, meat snacks like Jack Link’s, which heavily capitalized on the surging protein trend, recorded a CAGR of 13% from 2009-14 in the US, significantly outperforming the overall sweet and savory snacks category CAGR of 2%. Savory snack bars that emphasize a particular lifestyle and capitalize on naturalness, health, clean label or packaging are likely to perform particularly well in markets like the UK, Spain, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and Poland, where per capita consumption of fresh vegetables is declining, but snacks bars are forecast to continue their healthy growth.
Production, taste and image concerns
However, developing savory snack bars is not a completely failsafe strategy. Temperature-sensitive materials like vegetables are difficult to process because standard drying techniques at high temperatures are not suitable as they may char the vegetables and cause poor flavor and nutrient loss. Savory snack bars might also be unappealing due to inferior taste, texture and appearance and might require the addition of sugar or flavor enhancers, impeding their natural image.
In addition, consumers are very brand conscious when it comes to impulse purchases like snacks and typically go for a brand that has an established name. Although a brand like Mediterra or Nakd bar might be successful in the short term on a local scale, the absence of snack giants such as PepsiCo, Intersnack and Mondelez International might limit savory snack bars in terms of gaining global recognition.
Although the need to develop savory snack bar alternatives makes sense from a growth perspective, manufacturers should be wary of the production, taste and image concerns that govern savory bars and invest in production and advertising to make them work. However, once production and taste issues are overcome, savory snack bars can pay dividends, particularly in the markets where widespread government schemes drive increased vegetable consumption as well as those where fresh vegetable consumption is declining at the expense of processed snack products.
For further insight, please contact Pinar Hosafci, food analyst at Euromonitor International, at email@example.com.