What’s popping? The indulgent guilt-free snack

Posted on:
April 10, 2017
Julian Mellentin

In the snacks section of the recent International Food Event (IFE) 2017 in London, there was plenty of evidence of the efforts entrepreneurs are making to breathe new life into old snack types, reinventing them as new, convenient, healthy and fun. And nowhere was this more obvious than in the case of popcorn.

The eight popcorn brands exhibiting at IFE show how bagged, ready-to-eat popcorn – until not long ago a boring old-fashioned snack – has been reinvented with a massive burst of new and interesting flavours, contemporary packaging and branding and a clear free-from and natural appeal to the millennial generation.

The eight brands between them offer a total of 104 flavours. Many are the same (toffee, strawberry, cheese) but that still leaves an impressive 45 unique flavour combinations, the most interesting from the Joe & Seph’s brand: mince pie popcorn, chia & coconut popcorn, marmite popcorn and goats cheese & black pepper popcorn.

Brands are also hitting the health messages that give popcorn lovers permission to indulge: gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan-friendly, low calorie, “guilt free” and made with all natural ingredients.

Propercorn promotes its popcorns as ”delicious and guilt-free”. Metcalfe’s Skinny Popcorn is marketed as a skinny low-calorie option, despite coming in sweet flavours such as chocolate and cinnamon.

The popcorn makers’ strategy appears to be working, with the UK popcorn market up 13.6% in 2016, to a retail value of £120.1 million ($149 million/€140 million), according to IRI data.

Health-conscious consumers are lured by “low calorie”, “guilt-free” and “all natural” claims, while pleasure-seekers are attracted by the seemingly endless list of unique flavour combinations.

Popcorn’s rebirth is unlikely to stop there. Mecalfe’s Skinny Popcorn already sells popcorn chips as well as popcorn thins – discs of corn topped with chocolate, and described as “ a convenient, guilt-free alternative to chocolate bars, cakes, brownies and biscuits”.

Often, companies try to create something completely new. But popcorn shows that reinventing an existing category can be a jumping-off point for innovation.

Who knows what healthy indulgent snack reinventions will pop up next.

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Companies taking a different approach to success

Posted on:
March 23, 2017
Julian Mellentin

The UK’s biggest and most important food & drink trade show – International Food & Drink Event – was this year all about vegan, 100% natural, free-from and low in sugar. In the middle of this environment-friendly, sustainability and free-from craze, there were a few companies that stood out.

Oumph! Founded in 2015 in Sweden, Oumph already has sales of about $6 million (€5.5 million). When asked what makes this company different, Djani Skrgo “Master of Key Relations” says, “Even though we produce vegan products, we are not a vegan company. We’re not trying to target vegans. Nobody’s perfect – in fact, almost nobody of our employees is vegan. We’re only trying to decrease our meat consumption and encourage that in others. We’re trying to create a new food logic and make people think about our planet.”

Oumph is retailed in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland. “We’re currently active 50% in food service and 50% in retail and we’re here at IFE to find the right partner to expand in the UK. We believe that we have a unique product thanks to the long fibers which makes the texture and taste very similar to animal protein”, Skrgo said.

And he wasn’t lying – the small bites they were offering at the show truly did taste like meat.

What A Melon. Even though there were plenty of fun products and stands, it didn’t compare to the What A Melon stand. If it was an Instagram picture, this would be the caption: When you’re trying to run a business but also wanna have fun.

The entire stand was very simple and fun: one disco ball, bright colours, great music, employees on roller skates, and no messages whatsoever on any posters.

They were not attracting visitors with the now popular free-from claims, but with simplicity and an escape from their everyday activities. Visitors were asked to hula hoop and dance with them – everyone was taking pictures and What A Melon was not having trouble with getting attention and promotion.

“There are so many coconut waters around, but a lot of people have a problem with the taste. Watermelon is an alternative. It has all the electrolytes as coconut water which makes it a great hydrator. It also has lycopene which is great for the heart. Last March, we were the first to launch a tetra pack watermelon water in the world and we’re hoping to launch a 1L size bottle soon,” Will Rhys said.

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A ground-floor growth opportunity presents itself

Posted on:
March 6, 2017
Julian Mellentin

Blog post fermentation google 2Social media is buzzing about fermented foods – even in countries with conservative food cultures, such as France, where industry will be tempted to dismiss the development as something weirdly American and not what sensible French people are interested in.

The restless, food-explorer consumer can find a wealth of bloggers and online sources recommending kombucha and other fermented teas, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, pickles, vinegars, tempeh and a host of other fermented foods for their digestive health benefit. Against this tide of more interesting alternatives, yoghurt looks like a less exciting option.

Against 0.5% growth for the $6.9 billion US spoonable yoghurt market in 2016 (IRI), kefir experienced 16% sales growth, for the third year in a row. Vinegars, a $544 million market, grew 11.7%, with an average annual growth rate of 9% in the past three years, and kombucha, now a big and established business, grew by 7%.

Fermented beverages offer consumers a way to get the benefits of good bacteria – and avoid the sugar that they associate (rightly or wrongly) with fruit yoghurt – and give a pass to dairy which, as the surging plant-based milks and desserts markets illustrate, is struggling to keep the loyalty of the ultra-health-conscious.

Smart companies will seize the fermentation opportunity now, at Day One.

Digestive wellness, the strongest and longest-lasting trend, is key to the success of fermentation. Consumers need to “feel comfortable inside” and they are increasingly opting for lactose- and gluten-free products, and plant-based drinks.

Smaller categories offering more interesting routes to digestive health are achieving greater sales growth than dairy-based probiotics. Innovative start-up Rhythm Health spent nearly a decade developing a probiotic formula that would thrive in a coconut-milk based kefir drink. Its flagship product, a non-dairy kefir shot, is marketed as “100 percent natural” and with no added sugars, connecting with the widespread consumer belief in “naturally functional”, and the need to lower sugar intake.

Fermentation also connects to the plant-based foods trend. Companies have already tapped into this need by creating single-serve vegetable-based snacks – a format that fits well with fermentation.

Fermented vegetables are a well established idea in consumers’ minds – they’re a traditional food format, such as kimchi or tempeh in Asia. Offering a fermented chilled vegetable-based snack that is ready-to-eat can connect to that idea of traditional use and be credible.

Fermented beverages and foods are slowly on the way up – even in France.

You can find out more by New Nutrition Business’ new report Fermentation: how to make a trend into an opportunity at ( http://bit.ly/2kUuruT).

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