- Frito-Lay North America's R&D team says spice, citrus, global influence, unexpected combinations and health benefits will be driving snacking trends in 2020, according to a release sent to Food Dive.
- Global influence will be evident in the appearance of more chiles — including ghost, habanero, poblano, hatch and chipotle — as well as the spread of heat tolerance, which the company predicts will go into more mild cuisines like U.K. and Australian food. Also, the types of citrus that make appearances — including yuzu, grapefruit, blood orange and Buddha's hand — indicate more consumer interest in sour snacks.
- Better-for-you options and on-the-go availability are also both trends Frito-Lay noted will stick around for another year.
Snacking is becoming such a mainstream mode of eating, more people are consuming snack foods between meals and as meal replacements.
More companies have been tracking the trends that shape this space and looking to develop products that check those boxes. In Frito-Lay's latest snack trend list, it expects consumers to be seeking sour and unexpected combinations. Frito-Lay noted that "unexpected" could include flavors like gin or bourbon or multi-layered combinations that combine several trending flavors.
Companies are already tapping into some of these trends, and there could be more of that in the year to come. Frito-Lay recently announced that it would be keeping its new hot and sour snack, Lay’s Flamin’ Hot Dill Pickle, as a permanent staple. McCormick also has snacks that tap into this trend with Brown Sugar Bourbon Beef Jerky, rolling up the flavor and health crazes into one item.
This evolution of snacking points to more prevalence of savory options. An Innova Market Insights report found salty snacks are becoming more popular, and the report’s data linked this to the spread of snacking to all parts of the day. More people are also replacing meals with salty snacks, Innova said, with 23% consuming them at lunch, 17% at dinner and 8% at breakfast.
Regardless of when they are consuming them, Mondelez International's "State of Snacking" report found 59% of adults worldwide and 70% of millennials prefer snacking to eating meals. Although convenience is the No. 1 factor driving this trend, consumers are not willing to forego healthy or interesting options just because their lives are busy. The top three qualities that consumers look for in snacks, according to the Mondelez report, are freshness (43%), low sugar (36%) and low fat (31%). Similarly, research from The NPD Group indicated millennials and Gen Zers prioritize healthier options in snacking.
This trend toward better-for-you options has been around for a while, so it isn't surprising to see it popping up again in Frito-Lay’s list. Global flavors have also been a peaking trend. The majority of Americans are eager to try globally inspired flavors. In the Frito-Lay U.S. Snack Index from earlier this year, more than two-thirds of respondents said they eat foods with international flavors at least once a month. According to Kerry's 2019 Taste Chart, North and East African flavors, exotic fruits and herbs, as well as Korean staples and spices from Southeast Asia were named some of the latest trends emerging in the market.
Along with the globalization of flavor has come a ratcheting up in spice levels, which have evolved from being labeled as “flamin’ hot,” “chili” or “jalapeño” to include more specific and authentic varieties. More snacks will likely tout these definitions in the next year as Americans increasingly embrace the heat of spicy peppers from Mexican and South American cuisines.
Consumers are likely going to continue to demand authentic flavors to benefit their health as they work to nourish themselves in a world with increasingly hectic schedules. Research from Euromonitor International reported by Food Navigator found e-commerce reduced unplanned, impulse snack purchases in the last five years. At the same time, the snacking business grew $3.4 billion globally in 2017, according to Nielsen. That suggests consumers are just as dedicated to what they are putting into their bodies in terms of both health and flavor as they are to convenience. Therefore, manufacturers will need to continue to innovate to keep flavors fresh and healthy to keep consumers coming back for more.