Emotions are a powerful driver of snacking. According to the latest research from Mintel, the experts in what consumers want and why a majority of Indian consumers agree that they snack to relieve boredom (77 percent) and stress (76 percent).
In fact, due to the onset of the pandemic, nine in 10 Indians (90 percent) agreed that they suffered from some form of stress, while 38 percent of consumers have shown interest in food with added benefits to cope with stress. Meanwhile, since the start of the first COVID-19 lockdown, close to two in five (39 percent) of consumers have increased snack consumption.
Rushikesh Aravkar, Associate Director, Food and Drink, Mintel Consumer Reports South APAC said, “Our research shows a clear connection between emotional wellbeing - or the perception of wellbeing - and snacking, which presents brands with opportunities to associate snacking occasions with moments of de-stressing and relaxation. Brands can appeal to consumers by highlighting emotional wellbeing through notions of comfort, nostalgia, and familiarity by way of marketing and brand communications.”
“COVID-19 has reinforced snacks' role in helping consumers cope with stress and uncertainty. As consumers transition into the ‘next to normal’ post-pandemic, they will continue to reach for food that offers comfort and security. In the next 12-18 months, consumers will expect snack brands to respond to their emotional needs of stress relief and relaxation. Positioning snacks as mood food with health benefits can help brands establish emotional connections with consumers. They can also appeal to stressed consumers by introducing ingredients containing nervines and adaptogens and communicating the relaxing benefits they bring,” he further added.
Opportune Time for Brands to Focus on Health and Clean Label
While taste remains important to consumers, brands have an opportunity to ride the clean label and health waves. Mintel research highlights that close to two-thirds of consumers (71 percent) say the taste is more important than how healthy the snack is, while 85 percent of Indian consumers wish there were healthy snack options available.
Among the new snack product launches in India between February 2016 to January 2021, Mintel GNPD indicates growth in natural claims such as the ‘no additives or preservatives’ claim saw a rise from 11 percent to 16 percent and ‘free from added/artificial preservatives’ increased from 7 percent to 15 percent.
“It is important for snack brands to deliver on taste, indulgence as well as health. Associating a brand with moments of joy, while maximizing taste, indulgence, and enjoyment will resonate with consumers and help in driving usage. The pandemic has heightened consumer interest in eating healthily and this extends to the snacking category. Snack brands can help consumers achieve their personal health goals by boosting the product’s naturalness, eliminating artificial ingredients and ‘nasties’, and fortifying with nutrients in line with the clean label trend.
“The growth in clean label claims, such as no additives or preservatives, in India, further indicates a shift toward health positioning and we expect to see the demand for more free-from formulations will rise. As the clean label trend takes root in India, consumers will look for products made with simple and familiar ingredients. Potential exists for snack brands to clean ingredient lists and stand out in the crowded snacking market,” added Rushikesh.
Smaller Packs and Guilt-Free Snacks Can Drive Purchase
When it comes to the top reasons for snacking, the feeling of guilt closely follows boredom and stress as 60 percent of Indians say snacking is a guilty pleasure. In fact, four in ten (40 percent) heavy snackers tend to finish the snack pack on opening rather than saving it for later; while 36 percent say they find it hard to keep track of the number of snacks they consume.
While smaller packs can help with conscious consumption, Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) highlights that the majority of new snack product launches in India between February 2020 and January 2021 came in pack sizes of 101-250g (37 percent), while 7 percent of launches came in unit sizes of 21-40g.
“A substantial proportion of the population see snacking as a guilty pleasure. Therefore, snacks enriched with added nutrition, such as added protein, will appeal to consumers and remove the guilt associated with snacking. Brands that help consumers justify snacking and elevate the feel-good connotations of snacking will win consumers' favor. In India, a few start-up snack brands are now focusing on healthy snacking and are effectively utilizing better-for-you attributes to offer added value as an incentive to buy.
Packs with smaller serving sizes provide inherent portion control that limits calorie intake and prevents overeating. Hence, snack packs with unit pack sizes of 21-40g are ideal for delivering a single serving and will appeal to heavy snackers who find it hard to keep track of how much they eat while snacking. Snack brands can leverage small pack sizes to help consumers track their consumption. Signposting these packs with calorie content or health and nutrition-related cues can help find a balance between indulgence and health. Snack brands have an opportunity to play with value-based price points to position small packs as affordable options to regular packs,” concluded Rushikesh.