Consumer demand in the cheese snack category is shifting towards craft and artisan products that are closely linked to real cheese and simple ingredients, according to Kerry Taste & Nutrition (Kerry). Larger and more established brands are losing market share and shelf space to smaller, more artisanal brands. Consumers perceive these brands to be delivering more authentic, premium and innovative snacks. As a result, Kerry offers an end-to-end solution for manufacturers to remain competitive in European markets. Addressing this shift in consumer demand is an opportunity, but also a challenge, for snack manufacturers, according to Kerry.

Volatility in the cheese market is generating new layers of complexity in managing prices and sourcing named and provincial cheeses. In addition, creating a natural snack that captures the organoleptic properties of real cheese in an application, and at scale, can be an obstacle.

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Jeremy Pugh, Director – Savoury Snack End-Use-Market at Kerry Taste & Nutrition, says: “Consumers look to dairy snacks for comfort, emotional warmth and authenticity. They will have more perceived health benefits compared to sweeter snacks but need to be delivered in a convenient format. The research highlighted that consumers want more adult dairy snacks (more sophisticated flavor profiles, formats and branding) that they can easily consume on-the-go, to fit into their busy lifestyles.”

“Kerry research shows that 64 percent of consumers are looking to ignite their love of snacks through new taste experiences. As the world becomes smaller and consumers have been introduced to new flavors and taste profiles, they often expect a taste of the world at home. They want snacks that deliver strong, bold flavors and new and experiential textures,” Pugh notes. 

“I also believe there is a bigger desire from consumers to be informed about what they are putting into their bodies and how their favorite snacks are made. A desire to eat ‘clean’ and simple foods, as well as a mistrust of big business is driving consumers to buy from smaller producers with stories to tell about their products. With this in mind, artisan brands are better positioned to reassure today’s consumers.”

Kerry relies on its dairy experts to source only the highest quality and most cost-effective ingredients through its vertically integrated supply chain. Its cheese powder is produced through a simple and completely transparent process – take real cheese, add water and emulsifying salt, then melt and dry – and can be used across a variety of applications.

The end product retains all of the functionality and labeling specifications of the original cheese used. The taste and textural characteristics of real cheese are also maintained, as backed by testing with sensory experts trained in dairy flavors. This means that cheese snacks do not have to be boring or unhealthy: they can be a nutritious and practical way to eat, offering consumers a premium taste experience filled with the rich flavor profile of cheese. 

Kerry’s consumer research reveals that cheese snacks have one of the highest gaps in the desire for authenticity versus current perceptions of the category. 

Key findings show that consumers:
• Consumers believe they only get an imitation of cheese in their cheesy snacks, not the real deal that they love and adore (Kerry – The Real Cheese Research, 2017).
• View traditional cheese snacks as artificial, lacking in textural complexity and dimension (Kerry – The Real Cheese Research, 2017) and seek new and bold flavors with twists such as sweet and savory combinations (Kerry Snacking Discovery, 2016).
• Only 29 percent of consumers stated the last crisp snack they consumed met their needs (Kerry Consumer First, 2017).
• Seek healthy snacks, with 65 percent wanting options that make them fuller for longer and 53 percent looking for snacks that contain healthier ingredients (Kerry Snacking Discovery, 2017).
• Care about transparency, provenance and local sourcing of ingredients more than ever before, with 76 percent saying that their ideal snack is made from simple, honest ingredients (Kerry Snacking Discovery, 2017).
• Consumers feel cheese has the “real food” values that people want as part of trying to be healthier (Kerry – The Real Cheese Research, 2017).
• Consumers are seeking a multi-sensory taste experience – where taste and flavor lingers and is revealed slowly (Kerry – The Real Cheese Research, 2017).

“Cheese snacks have one of the highest gaps in the desire for authenticity vs. current perceptions of the category. Only 29 percent of consumers stated they were satisfied that their last crisp snack occasion met their needs (Kerry, Consumer First, 2017). Consumers have such a passion for cheese; but believe they only get an imitation of cheese in their cheesy snacks, not the real deal that they love and adore. This is a huge opportunity for the market to tap into,” Grace Keenan, Marketing Manager for Savoury End-Use-Market tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

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