‘Times have changed’: 50-year-old Continental Taralli eyes younger consumers with ‘trendy’ healthier snacks
Taralli are a traditional Southern Mediterranean savoury snack shaped in a hoop but akin to an Italian-style pretzel, and is known in South Italy as a ‘necessary’ complementary accompaniment with wine.
The firm Continental Taralli was founded in Australia back in the 1970s, and boasts some 50 years of using traditional family recipes to make its taralli – but according to the firm’s National Sales and Marketing Manager Sonia Bruno, who is also the daughter of founder John Viscione, adjustments have had to be made in terms of marketing and product development as ‘times have changed’.
“Back when my father was helming the company, it was all about quantity as the idea was to feed an entire family, so he was selling these huge half-kilo bags of taralli to consumers – but today, times have changed and things are very different, consumers want to spend less to buy smaller packs,” Bruno told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“Many of his old regulars have either passed on or stopped doing the marketing for the family, so we knew it was time to look for new markets and found that we needed to update ourselves to keep up with current trends, especially if we wanted to appeal to younger consumers.”
As such, the firm is now looking to hit all the boxes in terms of trends by revamping its marketing to focus on being a healthier alternative to other snacks such as crackers, crisps and nuts, using sustainable packaging, and being able to cater to plant-based, vegan and gluten-free food seekers.
“Taralli are baked, not fried and we only use extra virgin olive oil which is low in saturated fats as opposed to other vegetable oils which can raise cholesterol, so are healthier in terms of being cholesterol-free, lactose-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and with no added sugar or preservatives,” said Bruno.
“Being a vegan snack has really become a good selling point, and having no added sugar or yeast also means taralli don’t cause bloating and are light on the stomach, which many consumers like.
“We also are also known for our almond bread range where we have a gluten-free version, and are looking to extend our gluten-free offerings to hit that trend, and are also using 100% compostable and recyclable packaging to boost our sustainability credentials.”
So far, the firm’s strategy seems to be working as Bruno has observed a visible shift in their consumer profile from the older generation to younger, many of whom are in their twenties.
“Another thing that is working in our favour is the fact that we essentially have no competition – we are the only Taralli firm in the whole of Australia that has 11 flavours of taralli and tarallini (a bite-size version of Taralli),” she said.
“The most traditional flavour, which is Fennel and Olive Oil, is still performing the best out of all of these though – this is likely because of the added health benefits of fennel, which is good for gut health and digestion in addition to providing the biscuit with a liquorice-type refreshing flavour.”
Although maintaining its traditional recipe, Continental Taralli has also recognised the need to be inventive in terms of flavours, leading to the creation of various unusual flavours, including some which incorporate Australian traditional foods.
“Some other popular variants are the Parmesan Cheese and Onion, as well as the Rosemary and Sea Salt, and the Sundried Tomato and Basil,” said Bruno.
“Although Taralli is traditionally meant to be eaten with wine, we have also developed a Lemon Myrtle and Sesame variant which is great with gin – we chose lemon myrtle as this is an Australian bush food and we wanted to honour both our Italian heritage and Australian heritage with this one.”
Continental Taralli’s products are available in multiple supermarkets across Australia including Coles, Drakes, and Foodland for between A$6 to A$10 depending on the product (Taralli, tarallini, almond bread or biscotti), and has also been launched in NTUC Fairprice supermarkets in Singapore.
It is also endorsed by Australia’s largest wine brand Jacob’s Creek Winery as the recommended savoury cracker to go with wine.
Conquering different consumption occasions
Although snacking is a primary target market for the firm, Bruno added that consumers are increasingly eating taralli across multiple consumption occasions due to its versatility.
“Apart from snacking, many consumers are also using them in place of croutons in their soups and salads which could be for lunch or dinner, or in skewers or on grazing platters,” she said.
“There’s also the almond bread which is a crispbread that is more geared towards sweet flavours and usually eaten with coffee or tea which can fit the teatime occasion, and we are also developing a line of biscotti sticks which are similar to shortbread texture that would fit well here too.”
Moving forward, the firm also has its eye well beyond Australia and Singapore, to develop its markets first in New Zealand then more markets in Asia and the Middle East.
“We believe that we have many good market opportunities in Asia and the Middles East, particularly Asia as there is a high diabetes rate in the population so consumers are looking for a cholesterol-free product, and we want to tap this market,” she said.
“Major targets for us would include Malaysia, Hong Kong and Dubai where they might be more interested in higher-end boutique food products.”