Snack sector looks to lentils, beans and insects as ‘health by stealth’ hits limit

Sebastian Emig, Director General, European Snacks Association, told the FoodNavigator 2021 Digital Summit: Positive Nutrition​ ​that the trend of snackification has increased the number of consumers looking for healthier snacks. “More than half of consumers aged 16-24 years old snack at least once a day,” ​he said. That rises to three out of four in Italy and the UK.  “There is a very strong trend that people are looking for healthier snacks and our members are looking to respond to that very strong trend,” ​he added.

The European Snacks Association acts for 200 member companies in 40 countries and represents 80% of the branded savoury snack companies in Europe.

Healthy vs unhealthy diets

The association, however, disagrees with the terminology of ‘unhealthy food’, explained Emig. It is of the view that there are no healthy or unhealthy foods: if a food would be considered unhealthy it wouldn’t be on the market, it believes.

“We support the term ‘healthy and unhealthy diet’, where a healthy one is a balanced diet combined with a healthy lifestyle and food and beverage consumption in moderation,”​ explained Emig.

Despite this, he noted there is strong growth potential for snacks with less fat, salt and sugar content, and the ESA’s members are responding via reformulation and innovation.  

“Looking at the last two to three decades, the savoury snacks industry, especially in Europe, has very strong success stories in terms of salt and saturated fat content,”​ he said.

In the UK, for example, savoury snack manufacturers voluntarily reduced the amount of salt in crisps by over 53% between 1990 and 2019. New technologies and ingredients such as vegetables with more unsaturated fats have also helped reduce saturated fat levels up to 60% in the final product, Emig told the event.

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