Data from the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) has revealed that China, India, Indonesia and Japan ranked first, third, fourth and fifth respectively in term of salty snacking product launches in 2018.
China outstripped its closest competitor the United States by far with 11% of total launches as opposed to the latter’s 8%, followed by India’s 7% and Indonesia and Japan both at 5%.
“Asia, particularly China, is currently driving the global snack industry,” said Mintel Food and Drink Director of Insight Marcia Mogelonsky said.
“We are seeing the greatest market potential [in Asia], where snacking is big business. [Across the region], consumers are interested in experimenting with foods and flavours from more than just their home province or country, making pan-Asian innovation an exciting area.”
Flavour migration was highlighted as a particularly conspicuous trend, in particular the rising popularity of chocolate-flavoured salty snacks in Asia that were first conceptualised in the United States.
“Chocolate—be it dark, milk, or white, on its own or with other ingredients—has moved into salty snacks, bridging the sweet-savoury divide. [It] has lent itself well to the ‘sweet and salty’ taste that is becoming popular across the world, and more recently in Asia,” said Mogelonsky.
The Asia Pacific region launched some 58% of all chocolate-flavoured salty snacks globally – also beating its closest competitors in the EMEA region (19%) and North America (10%) by a wide margin. Numbers attributed to this trend came from Japan in particular, with 12% of chocolate-flavoured salty snacks coming from the country overall, beating the United States by about 4%.
“Flavours [such as chocolate in salty snacks] are migrating from their region of origin to other markets as consumers share more traditions, ingredients, menus and recipes,” added Mogelonsky.
In terms of overall snack food market retail volume in 2018, the top five rankers globally were: China at 5,521 thousand tonnes, followed by the United States (3,754 thousand tonnes), India (1,300 thousand tonnes), Japan (582 thousand tonnes) and Mexico (557 thousand tonnes).
Balancing sweet and savoury
Mogelonsky also highlighted flavour innovation as a key factor to gaining ground in the global snacks industry – again, the mastery of sweet and salty combinations were noted to be crucial for manufacturers to stand out in Asia.
“Exploring different styles of flavour combination can [introduce] the element of novelty to consumers. For manufacturers in Asia, success will rely on finding the right balance between sweet and savoury—especially with current interest levels among Asian consumers,” she explained.
According to Mintel’s The Future of Salty Snacks: 2019 report, 40% of urban Indonesians are interested in sweet and savoury flavour combinations, whereas 50% of urban Chinese consumers indicated interest in exotic flavours like sweet and salty blends.
Areas of strong potential
The report suggested several strategies and areas of strong potential for snack brands and manufacturers to take note of in the APAC region, and one of these was to target products based on different demographics.
As an example, Chinese nut manufacturer Yun Wei Shi Zu focused an entire product line on pregnant women, with ‘daily nut’ variants for women in each of the three trimesters designed to provide benefits based on the three stages respectively.
“This strategy can be applied to other snacks, and in other markets, as consumers' reasons for eating snacks differ by age, lifestage and activity,” said the report.
In terms of flavours, the report speculated that other flavours looking likely to make the flavour migration ‘cross-continental leap’ include salted egg yolk from Asia to the rest of the world, fish snacks from Asia to Europe and North America, and Brussel sprouts or broccoli from the United States/Europe to Asia.
As for countries to look to, the Indian snack market has been recognised as a fast-growing international contender.
“The future of the Indian snack market is also promising, [not just due to its rapid innovation] being driven by a growing population, but also due to the wide-ranging flavour choices and food traditions in the country,” said Mogelonsky.