According to a new report from market research company Nielsen, consumers across the globe spent around US$374 billion on snack foods between 2013 and 2014, representing a two percent increase year-over-year.
The report states that Europe at US$167 billion, and North America at $124 billion, make up for the majority of snack food sales worldwide, however the Asia-Pacific ($46 billion) and Latin American ($30 billion) have experienced fast growth at an increase of four percent and nine percent respectively. The Middle East and Africa has also experienced a five percent increase to represent $7 billion.
Executive vice president, global professional services, Nielsen, Susan Dunn, says that while the competitive landscape of the snacking industry is ‘fierce’, there are still plenty of opportunities for food manufacturers to innovate.
“Demand is driven primarily by taste and health considerations and consumers are not willing to compromise on either. The right balance is ultimately decided by the consumer at the point of purchase. Understanding the 'why before the buy' provides the foresight necessary to deliver the right product to the right consumer at the right time.”
The research found that consumers are demanding snacks that contain natural ingredients, with 45 percent of respondents rating natural ingredients as ‘very important’ and 33 percent rating them as ‘moderately important’. These two figures represent the highest percentages out of the 20 health attributes included in the study.
The absence of artificial colours (44 percent), genetically modified organisms (43 percent) and artificial flavours (42 percent) are also rated very important. Caffeine-free (23 percent) and gluten-free (19 percent) snacks are also rated as very important for about one-fourth and one-fifth of global respondents, respectively.
In terms of the fastest growing snack categories, the research points towards sales of savoury snacks, including crackers, rice cakes and pita chips, which increased 21 percent in the last year in Latin America. Meat snacks, which include jerky and dried meat, grew 25 percent in the Middle East/Africa and 15 percent in North America. Refrigerated snacks, which include yogurt, cheese snacks and pudding, rose 6.4 percent in Asia-Pacific, while dips and spreads, which include salsa and hummus, increased 6.8 percent in Europe.
“Non-sugary snacks closely aligned with meal-replacement foods are showing strong growth, which signals a shift in a consumer mindset to one focused on health,” said Dunn. “While conventional cookies, cakes and confections categories still hold the majority of snack sales, more innovation in the healthy snacking and portable food space is necessary to adjust to this changing dynamic.”
More than three-quarters of global respondents (76 perent) say that they eat snacks often, or sometimes to satisfy their hunger between meals or to satisfy a craving. 45 percent of global respondents consume snacks as a meal alternative—52 percent for breakfast, 43 percent for lunch and 40 percent for dinner.
“There is a perception that snacks are intended more for in-between meals than for actual meal replacements,” said Dunn. “But busy, on-the-go lifestyles often dictate a need for quick meals, and many opt for fast food options that can be high in calories and low in health benefits. There is a massive untapped opportunity to gain market share in the nutritious, portable and easy-to-eat meal alternative market that snack manufacturers could fill.”
Despite strong growth in the savoury category, confectionery comprises the biggest sales contribution to the overall snack category in Europe ($46.5 billion) and the Middle East/Africa ($1.9 billion). Salty snacks contribute more than one-fifth of snack sales in North America ($27.7 billion), refrigerated snacks comprise almost one-third of snacks in Asia-Pacific ($13.7 billion), and cookies and snack cakes make up more than one-fourth of total snacks in Latin America ($8.6 billion).
The Nielsen Global Survey of Snacking was conducted between 17 February and 7 March, 2014, and polled more than 30,000 consumers in 60 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America.