Packing in the right flavor applications may help snack food formulators stay on course when they wish to tap into two trends: health and wellness and ethnic markets. Flavors potentially may mask any "off notes" caused by ingredients in healthier snacks, and different ethnic groups tend to favor certain flavors.
Reasons to create healthier snacks were brought up at last year’s Snaxpo 2006, the Snack Food Association’s annual event. Among "heavy healthier" snack purchasers, 62% are willing to pay more for snacks that are healthier for them, said Sally Lyons Wyatt, senior vice-president of Information Resources, Inc. Sales of snack foods categorized as "healthy" grew 7% between 2002 and 2004, added David Lockwood, a research director at Mintel International.
"There are many new snacks that are reduced in fat, reduced in salt, contain healthful whole grain flavors and additional fiber," said Agneta Weisz, vice-president of flavor and technology for Comax Flavors, Melville, N.Y. "Some snacks have additional ingredients like isolated soy and whey protein, flaxseed or omega-3 fatty acids. Flavors can replace some of the missing fat or salt and they can mask the taste of the nutritional ingredients."
Sea salt and vinegar and cinnamon sugar are some of the flavor applications that may work with a new high-protein snack developed by Kerry Ingredients, Beloit, Wis.
Flavors will play a role in the planned February launch of a healthier snack from the Frito-Lay division of PepsiCo, Inc., Purchase, N.Y. Tangy Tomato Ranch and Wild Berry Patch are two of the flavors found in Flat Earth chips, a line of snacks made with real fruits and vegetables.
Besides healthier snacks, Ms. Wyatt of I.R.I. added growth and opportunity for manufacturers and retailers awaited in the natural and organic arena for snacks. Comax has found snack food success in organic baby snacks, Ms. Weisz said.
"Obviously they are not ethnic or spicy but are healthful and contain vegetable-type flavors," she said.
While Hispanic flavors remain popular in snacks, other trendy flavor types include Chinese, Indian and Thai, Ms. Weisz said.
"Some of these are typically very spicy flavors," she said. "Salsa, chili, five spice, teriyaki, curry, Thai peanut, these are just a few of the flavors that can be seen in all types of snacks today. Wasabi-coated peas are ubiquitous."
Ethnically speaking, Tuscan Three Cheese received the highest rating in last year’s annual People’s Choice campaign run by Kettle Foods. Kettle Foods added the flavor to its potato chips. According to Kettle, Tuscan Three Cheese is reminiscent of the Italian favorite, bruschetta. The chip combines the cheeses of Parmesan, goat cheese and Romano along with roasted pepper and tomato.
Snack pellets offer advantages in flavor formulation for regional tastes. Flavoring is the final processing step after the snack pellets are fried or puffed, said Laurent Garcia, sales manager for Clextral, Inc., Tampa, Fla.
"Typically flavor is applied using a coating drum, offering distributors the flexibility to process snacks with a great variety of flavors simply by feeding a different coating," she said.
Manufacturers may tailor flavor combinations to satisfy regional taste preferences and create treats for promotions or holidays, according to Clextral.
"On special occasions like the Super Bowl, we can imagine that a salty or spicy coating in the team colors would be popular with consumers," Ms. Garcia said.
Snaxpo heads to Florida
Snaxpo 2007, the largest trade show created specifically for the snack food industry, will take place March 24-27 in Hollywood, Fla. Educational sessions will cover such areas as obesity, pandemic planning, commodity hedging, environmental issues, food and nutrition policy, energy, Hispanic markets and scan-based trading.
Charles Fishman, author of "The Wal-Mart Effect," will lead a discussion on the influence of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. on March 25. Sally Lyons Wyatt of Information Resources, Inc. will present the "State of the Snack Food Industry 2007" on March 26.
Flavor predictions for 2007
CINCINNATI — Givaudan divided its FlavourVision 2007 predictions into three areas: "Wonderlands," "Pleasure Principals" and "Body & Soul." Consumer exploration and the desire for new experiences make up Wonderlands. Indulgence is the theme for Pleasure Principals. Physical and emotional health and wellness pertains to Body & Soul.
Flavor direction — ethnic, exotic and experiential flavors (tingle, cool, pucker, heat)
Flavors — guava, mangosteen, pink peppercorn, smoked paprika, acai berry, blue ginger/galangal, Amazonian herbs, rooibos/red tea, rhubarb
Flavor direction — sophisticated and adult tastes; sweet, creamy and frothy textural flavors; flavors with provenance; rich, sticky sweet browns
Flavors — caramel, coffee, custard, tapioca, pandan, toffee, vintage spirits such as wine and champagne, buttercream, bitter chocolate, artisanal honey
Body & Soul
Flavor direction — Active hydration flavors from foods with high water content; antioxidant berries and fruit; light, fragrant herbs; energizing foods and flavors; warm, calming spices and florals; natural healthy flavors and nutrition dense foods
Flavors — miso, watermelon, pomegranate, lavender, green and white tea, almond, pear, bergamot, cardamom, olive.