‘No longer a niche’: Hunter Foods expands product line-up to meet healthy snacking demands while eyeing threefold growth

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

Hunter Foods recently introduced its latest products, mushroom chips and okra chips, at Gulfood. ©Hunter Foods
Hunter Foods recently introduced its latest products, mushroom chips and okra chips, at Gulfood. ©Hunter Foods

Related tags Snacks healthy snacking Middle east better for you

Middle Eastern snacks firm Hunter Foods has expanded its product range and repackaged its best-sellers amid booming consumer demand, in a bid to stay ahead of rising competition in the category.

A leading manufacturer of better-for-you gourmet snacks in the UAE, Hunter Foods​ recently introduced its latest products, mushroom chips and okra chips, at Gulfood in Dubai.

“One of the areas we see a huge opportunity in is plant-based [snacks]. Within that, mushroom is an ingredient that is trending globally. Also, okra is a vegetable that is included in many Middle Eastern and Indian dishes. In fact, it has been part of our vegetable chips range for many years.

“A key reason why we are now selling it separately is because there has been a lot of interest from our customers who have been picking out okra from our vegetable chips, as they like it so much,” ​Ananya Narayan, CEO of Hunter Foods, told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

The brand has also relaunched its popular Hunter’s Ridges range, which are ridged potato crisps that come in flavours like Himalayan Pink Salt, Hot & Sweet, and Sour Cream & Onion.

“We’ve had huge success with our Hunter’s Gourmet Truffle Collection over the last few years, with exports going to over 65 countries today. We thought it was the right time to relaunch it, and have the white truffle range in white packaging and the black truffle range in black packaging, just to make the differentiation a little clearer.

“The one constant we have as a company is innovation. That’s part of our DNA. We have to keep thinking of version 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 etc. because we know that as soon as we finish version 3.0, competitors are going to fight for the 3.0 space and then we have to work on 4.0.”

On the topic of competition, Narayan said that as the better-for-you category broadens, there is more room for new players to enter the space and competition naturally becomes stiffer. But at the same time, these firms help to grow the category.

“We are quite happy with competitors coming in. But again, there are two types of competition— the ones who are also innovating and growing the category, and the copycats who are just trying to do the same thing and do it cheaper.

“Regardless of the competition, we need to always stay one step ahead. And the key to that is constant innovation. As consumers’ benchmark for better-for-you foods goes up, the standards for gourmet foods rise as well, so we have to be even more creative.”

In addition, Narayan teased about plans in the pipeline, including a new range of products slated for release this year.

“There are always plenty of fun stuff. I can’t quite talk about them yet, but we have already got plans for later this year and next year, and we’re now thinking about 2026. We have to be steps ahead [of competitors]. I think that’s part and parcel of what it takes to be a leading company.”

Going mainstream

Apart from portfolio expansion, Hunter Foods is also focused on capturing more market share in the UAE, as well as across Middle East and Asia.

“If you go a few years back, healthy snacks were a little bit more niche and had its own section on shelves catering to a certain population of consumers. In the past couple of years, especially post-COVID, these products are appearing on every aisle as people get more and more health-conscious.

“Healthy snacks are no longer special. They have become the norm. It’s a part of how everyone is eating now — not always super healthy, but increasingly healthier options. In the last three years, we have more than doubled our market presence,”​ Narayan shared.

Specifically, the brand’s presence has increased from 30 to 65 markets.

“We’re looking at new opportunities on an everyday basis.It all comes down to doing the job right by being more in tune with market trends and consumer needs. If we launch products that the market is looking for, then automatically, consumers will be interested.

“We look at trends in food and beverage industry and think of how to adapt them into snacks. Not all food trends can be translated into snacks, but a lot of them can. It starts with examining the taste profile and ingredients that top chefs around the world are using, then we do a lot of testing and market research to apply it for our market.”

As part of its business growth plans, Hunter Foods aims to triple its sales in three years.

“Our end goal is to really influence and advocate for better, healthier eating.By having more market share, we can send that message even louder. We want to be the norm, which will mean that there will be better ingredients [available for consumers],” ​Narayan reiterated.

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