Vying for (more) attention

by Eric Schroeder
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Everybody has a different reason for snacking. For some, snacking is a necessary way to grab some quick, much needed energy. For others, snacking is an opportunity to incorporate beneficial nutrients as part of a healthy diet. And for others, snacking is simply a way to dabble in indulgence.

With such a wide ranging consumer base, food companies are constantly looking for the next big flavor trend.

In its recently released "Snacking New Product Highlights" category report, FONA International, Geneva, Ill., identified several trends, and specific flavors, that may grab consumers’ eyes during 2009.

Cheddar cheese, chili pepper, barbecue, jalapeño, cinnamon, lime, chocolate, caramel, peanut butter, berry and apple are some of the popular flavors. Consumers also are interested in culinary inspired concepts for salty snacks, including sea salt, chipotle orange, mango and apricot.

Kettle Foods, Salem, Ore., has taken the culinary inspired concept mentioned by FONA to heart with the launch this month of Sea Salt & Vinegar Kettle Brand Baked Potato Chips. According to Kettle Foods, the chips contain "a splash of bold and tangy vinegar with a sprinkle of sea salt that delivers a boatload of all natural flavor."

Capitalizing on the trend toward comfort food and sweet, savory flavor pairings, Kettle Foods also this month will introduce Kettle Brand Sweet Onion Potato Chips.

"It’s the quintessential comfort food, with a toasty aroma and balanced blend of sweet and savory flavors," said Carolyn Richards, chief flavor architect at Kettle Foods.

While Kettle Foods has added sea salt to its potato chips, Stockton, Calif.-based Diamond Foods, Inc. is counting on the flavor to deliver punch as a flavor for its snack nuts.

In September, the company launched Sea Salt & Pepper Cashews to its Emerald snack line. According to Diamond Foods, the product is rich in iron, zinc, magnesium and fiber. At the same time, the company drew on consumers’ desire for chocolate-flavored snacks with the debut of Emerald Cocoa Roast Almonds. The Emerald Cocoa Roast Almonds combine dry roasted almonds with a proprietary baked-in flavor of dark chocolate.

Another flavor trend expected to take hold in 2009 is salsa and chile flavors, according to Gilroy Foods & Flavors, Omaha. Gilroy Foods, through its Food & FlavorCast quarterly report, offers perspective on changing consumer tastes. In the case of snack flavor trends, Gilroy Foods said Americans’ love for variety and spice is showing in new salsa product introductions.

"As consumer tastes in chiles mature, they are looking for spice and flavor in new snack products," Gilroy Foods said. "With distinctive varietal peppers showing up in ‘edgy’ applications like jalapeño ketchup, chipotle mayonnaise and mango-habanero sauce, it is no wonder chiles are still popping up in new snacks."

Some of the new chile-laced snack introductions identified by Gilroy Foods are Doritos Poppin’ Jalapeño tortilla chips; Doritos Collisions Zesty Taco and Chipotle Ranch chips; and Central Market Organics Hatch Green Chile Tortilla Chips.

Gilroy Foods also said North African flavors are generating more interest among snack makers.

"Bold seasonings and fresh preparations speak to 21st century palates," Gilroy Foods said. "And despite its ‘exotic’ trappings, North African cuisine is based on basic ingredients and flavors — allspice, cinnamon, cumin, citrus, mint, olives — that Americans know. Being fundamentally Mediterranean, whole grains, nuts, legumes and olive oil make North African flavors a potential for new snack ideas."

Leda Strand, director of technology applications and industrial ingredients at Wixon, Inc., Milwaukee, said there is continued interest in two flavor combinations regarding snack seasonings.

"The combinations may appear to be contrasting flavors: fruit and spice or heat and sweet, but our expanding cultural and culinary diversity has prompted this change," Ms. Strand said. "Snack seasonings such as Guajillo Pepper and pineapple or spicy smoked paprika and maple are now of interest. In addition, there continues to be an expansion beyond the typical potato and corn-based snacks into varietal potatoes, sweet potatoes, apples, and extruded vegetable or fruit-based snack components. This allows the base to be a key component in the overall flavor of a snack versus only a seasoning carrier with crunch."

Ms. Strand also said Wixon expects wholesome, healthier snack options to continue to be a focus. With that in mind, she said the company’s Magnifique line of flavor modifiers and KCLean Salt reduced sodium salt blend are seasonings that may tie into trends expected to take hold in 2009.

This article can also be found in the digital edition of Food Business News, January 6, 2009, starting on Page 22. Click
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