Why snacks need to manage the taste-nutrition conundrum

Mike Hughes of FMCG Gurus explains how pandemic trends are changing impulse buys.

snacking-habitsJust like everything else, snacking was upended by a change in behaviours associated with protracted lockdowns.

The future of snacking is anyone’s guess, but FMCG Gurus has been researching consumer attitudes and behaviours across the food, beverage and supplement markets globally. And it has come up with a picture of how pandemic trends will impact the way snacks are bought for years to come.

According to Mike Hughes, head of research and insights at FMCG Gurus, a number of retailers and brands have increased their direct-to-consumer channels in response to shifting demand, using a variety of delivery options to get products to consumers quickly, informed by a survey showing that 42% of Canadians report that they like to see brands launch online channels so that they do not leave the house.

“This is something that will continue to impact the snacking industry, especially for impulse purchasing and big night in shopping trips, with people realizing that they can quickly and easily obtain products without having to go to retailers,” Hughes maintains.

potato-chipsHughes tells strategy that consumers tend to be more impulse and less price sensitive when purchasing online, especially when it comes to comfort and escapist snacking. As such, brands continue to invest in direct to consumer channels and microsites.

According to Hughes, one of the major questions to be answered in the forthcoming months is working arrangements in a post-pandemic environment, as commutes and travel directly affects impulse purchases and products bought for immediate consumption via convenience channels.

One of the biggest trends that seen in the pandemic that will continue to hold firm is that consumers will continue to seek out products that offer both taste and nutrition, with 66% of Canadians reporting in 2021 that they were planning to eat and drink more healthily.

“Consumers are trying to improve their health as they look to maximize wellbeing and maintain a good quality of life – driven by the recognition that current dietary habits are not as healthy as they should be,” Hughes says.

This is something that will drive demand for better-for-you snacking options, such as products that are free-from a variety of ingredients and also offer a health boost beyond basic nutrition.

This is a market that will continue to grow as the proportion of consumers adopting free-from diets continues to grow.

Indeed, in the wake of the pandemic, an increasing number of consumers say that they will switch to plant-based alternatives for health and sustainability purposes, meaning the proportion of society classified as flexitarian will continue to grow. Additionally, people are also adopting diets around rawness and purity, trying to avoid ingredients deemed detrimental to health.

On the other hand, Hughes says consumers continue to turn to indulgent snacking impulses spurred by daily pressures – a trend that will continue for some time to come, with 59% of Canadians reporting that they had increased the amount of comfort food, such as confectionery, that they were purchasing as a result of the virus.

When it comes to innovation, Hughes says brands should focus on using natural, local and sustainable ingredients. They should also look to streamline ingredient lists where possible, using only tried and trusted ingredients.

The key messages should manage the taste and nutrition conundrum effectively. Consumers are looking to improve their health but dietary plans can often fail because better-for-you products can be associated with compromised sensory appeal, he says.

At the same time, continued uncertainty means that consumers will continue to turn to snacks as an escape.

If products can be positioned as guilt-free and conveniently nutritious, through the promotion of real and authentic ingredients and those that offer a health boost, as well as offering perceived good taste, it is something that will reduce price sensitivity and trigger impulse buying.