Prioritising Staples In The Snacking Category  

Jolene Ng
Principal Food and Drink Analyst, Mintel

The snacking category will likely be challenged as disposable income starts to shrink, and consumers will prioritise staples as food prices increase. 

Already in March 2022, over half (57 percent) of Malaysians are still eating snacks or sweets but have cut back, according to Mintel Global Consumer research.

Snack brands need to prove their value during these challenging times. The meaning of 'value' also changes over time as trends change. Yet what consumers find most valuable about food and drink brands never changes: these building blocks remain high quality and taste at the lowest possible price.

As APAC consumers' definition of 'good value' is becoming more fragmented, snack brands must prove invaluable through these three key value drivers, including positioning snacks as affordable nutrition, providing economic value by encouraging upsizing to bigger packs, and committing to sound quality. 

These key value drivers are supported by consumer research across varying APAC countries. In Vietnam, 79 percent of consumers agree that food and drink products offering health benefits are good value for money. Sixty-five percent of Indonesian consumers use sales to stock up on larger quantities. In the Philippines, 80 percent of consumers think paying more for a higher-quality product is worth it.

Snacking habits have been significantly altered during the pandemic, and salty snacks can support consumers' mental well-being as they spend more time at home. This has continued through 2023, when inflation, global conflict and adverse climate events have stressed consumers. Snacks can offer comfort and security during these challenging times. Mintel research shows that 77 percent of Thais think snacking on salty snacks is an excellent way to self-treat. 

Despite the rising costs in food and drink prices, consumers are not slowing down on snacking. In India, eight in 10 consumers snack at least once a day. Mintel's 2023 Global Food and Drink Trend ‘Unguilty Pleasures' outlined how, with consumers carrying a heavy mental load in crisis upon crisis, many will be unwilling to compromise on small moments of pleasure and indulgence. Snacks are currently being positioned as an affordable treat for consumers. 

Gen Zs habitually snack late at night. In the United Kingdom, nearly two-thirds of them agree that snacks are a must-have for a night in. The hyper-nesting trend stays as Gen Zs engage in in-home activities like watching TV and online videos and cooking post-COVID-19. Brands can capitalise on this by encouraging snacking to complement existing in-home activities—for example, 47 percent of Gen Zs in Canada associate chips with late-night snacking.

This is an opportunity for salty snack brands to cater to the late-night occasion and offer products that provide comfort and satisfy their hunger pangs. In Thailand, over a third of Gen Zs want comforting snacks in the evening. 

Throughout their young lives, this demographic has been exposed to a world of flavours via social media and an increasingly diverse food service sector. In China, 72 percent of consumers aged 18-24 said they would love to try exotic-flavoured snacks (e.g. wasabi, pandan, kimchi).

To engage Gen Z, brands should create a dynamic range of smaller snacks that embrace exciting, emerging and classic ethnic flavours. Brands are licensed to be creative, break the 'old rules' and cross-pollinate culinary concepts and cultures.

While many products position themselves as better-for-you snacks for younger consumers, Millennials and Gen Xs actively seek these alternatives. According to Mintel research, 45 percent of Thai Millennials are interested in trying salty snacks fortified with nutrients. Similarly, one in two Indian Gen X snackers look for healthy snacks all or most of the time.

In recent years, protein has become increasingly important to consumers as it plays a crucial role in building bones, muscles, cartilage and skin. Consumers are now actively seeking high protein in their diet. In Indonesia, one-third of consumers aged 25 and older consider high protein content necessary when shopping for food. According to Mintel Global New Products Database, salty snack launches in APAC are bucking this trend, noting a 50 percent growth in launches with high and added protein claims over the last five years leading up to August 2023.

Consumers' growing interest in high-protein food and drink presents an opportunity to expand their understanding of protein, including terms related to the quantity and quality of protein in snacks.

To read more about snacking, check out the Snacks Feature in the September issue of Supermarket News.