Healthy Snacking is changing the face of snacking in India
Healthy Snacking is changing the face of snacking in India

Traditionally, the idea of snacking has been more of indulgence and of alleviating hunger pangs between two regular larger meals. In fact, it used to be more of a breather from regular work and schedule when people would take a break with some snack accompanied mostly by tea. ‘Tea-time’ and ‘high tea’ are terms which signify consumption habits beyond drinking tea. However, with growing consumer awareness, health and nutrition increasingly forming an inextricable attribute of new-age food culture, our snacking items as well as habits are gravitating towards healthy snacking in general. And since this has not been restricted merely to urban areas and big cities but has also permeated into rural pockets, healthy snacking inevitably maintains an all-India ‘flavour’ thereby changing the face of snacking in the country.

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The arrival of new-age health conscious snack lovers

Unlike earlier when the desire and appetite for taste often used to overshadow the need for nutritional elements for a vast majority, regardless of being aware or not, today consuming nutritious and healthy foods has definitely risen to the top of people’s priority lists. The pivot from regular white bread to brown bread, the increasing popularity of oats as a breakfast option or even otherwise, and the surging demand for healthy beverages and drinks particularly in our metros – they all epitomize the rise and emergence of new-age health conscious snack lovers. In fact, nuts and dry fruits, yoghurt and fresh fruits too have also found more acceptance and usage among them. A survey conducted by IPSOS has revealed that while 72% of participants were aware of the nutritional needs of the body, 91% of Indians would like to explore healthier alternatives while looking to ‘snack up’. Prompted by a fast-paced lifestyle always pressed for time, people are consciously making healthy snacking an integral part of their regimen. In a recent world-wide poll conducted online on snacking habits and preferences of people that also included Indians, 63% of respondents affirmed that health was a top priority.

Major staples used for snack preparation

In response to this new segment, snack makers and brands are increasingly switching to making products from established and widely-acknowledged healthier ingredients which are typically used for preparation of our regular meals. These healthier alternatives range from staples such as rice, wheat and pulses to gram flour, millets, oats, ragi, quinoa, barley etc. Our multigrain chips has been developed by blend of such ingredients.

The emergence of healthy variants of formerly not-so -healthy foods

Yet, although there has been a shift towards nutritious snacks, taste has not lost its place in the minds of the snack lovers. In fact, the modern-age consumers want taste as well as nutrition. Mindful of this consumer sensitivity, brands are turning previously not-so-healthy reckoned products into healthy alternatives. For instance, the popular potato chips are being remade as multigrain chips made of rice, wheat, corn, and pulses etc, albeit retaining the same crunchiness and taste of the potato chips. Similarly improvised forms of healthy noodles, pastas and many other snack items are being offered by companies and are being lapped up by snack lovers.      

Snacks substituting for meals

In fact, more and more people have been reported to be altogether changing their snacking habits. Driven by faster lifestyles as well as changing preferences, they are going for smaller snacks at more frequent intervals while even forgoing their regular meals. Breaking out of the customary three-meal regimen, 77% Indians have reported snacking in the afternoon, an increase of 14% as compared to last year. According to a Mintel research which was conducted much before the Covid outbreak, while 60% of Indian consumers snack more than twice a day, 15% of them are super snackers who snack more than 4 times a day. The Covid-driven lifestyle adjustments would have further boosted these figures.

Home-like snacks on the rise

Although home-made snacks can never really go out of an Indian’s life, established food companies are offering pre-prepared ready-to-eat snacks as such upma, poha, sprouts etc, items which were once mostly home-made. With instant access and convenience being the driving factors, these home-like snacks are also taking care of the nutritional needs of people.

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Action on the policy and advocacy front

At policy-making levels, the authorities are continuously raising the bar for food and snack companies to have their products meet high hygiene and nutrition standards. At the same time,  at the levels of advocacy, a trend towards increasingly benchmarking and assessing of food and beverage companies for integration of nutrition as part of their business models as well as product offerings has been underway in recent years.

To sum up, healthy snacking has become an enduring habit of snack lovers in the country. Driven by this smart snacking culture coupled with the recent Covid-19 push, a market which has been estimated to cross INR 1 billion will only touch greater heights. A more aware and educated consumer universe will ensure that it happens.

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