APAC consumers are snacking more and in better ways, and SGK’s Romina Torres says brands offering a complete snacking experience that aligns with consumers’ values and lifestyles can build emotional connections and loyalty.

We’re in the middle of a snacking revolution. Seeking cleaner, greener and more ethical products, APAC consumers are revolutionising the way they munch and crunch.

The market for this way of eating is expanding fast. In Asia-Pacific alone, the savory snacks market brought in a total revenue of US$67.1bn in 2021 and is projected to continue growing at a rate of 8.1% every year until 2027.

But what exactly is driving this change and how can brands capture the opportunity?

The traditional three meals a day, spaced rigidly around an eight-hour working day, is a wavering behavioral trend. Instead, today’s consumers value flexibility and independence, building eating patterns that fit their unique needs and schedules. In a fast-paced world where convenience is king, this fragmented lifestyle is seeing consumers turning to smaller, snackable options to keep them fuelled throughout the day.

Consumers not only want to snack more but they want to snack in better ways. More conscious of their health than ever before, they are hungry for snacks that do more than just deliver on flavour. In response, the snack industry is innovating, coming up with new, better-for-you options that are still convenient and delicious.

Environmentally and ethically conscious, global consumers are voting with their wallets, with one in four saying that spending on eco or ethically conscious products makes them feel good. By choosing products that are transparent about how they are made and are better for the planet, consumers are pushing businesses to find new ways to be more sustainable. At the same time, governments are facing pressure to push through greener legislation, leaving businesses with the choice: innovate or be left behind.

These behavioural and preference shifts are presenting a real opportunity for savvy brands. Here’s how we’re seeing APAC brands rethink their consumer experiences to capitalise on this opportunity.

1. Better taste, better made

Consumers today want to know how the products they eat are not only better for them but better for the environment. Brands that proactively work towards more sustainable practices (and tell their consumers about their efforts) can win loyalty, positioning themselves as the obvious, better choice.

Research shows that these efforts really pay off, with the Mondelez Snacking Report finding that 85% of consumers would either buy or would like to buy snacks from companies that are working to mitigate their environmental impact.

In Australia, players like Natural Chip Co are playing their part, reducing their carbon footprint by using renewable electricity to power their operations. Meanwhile, Re in Singapore is providing greater transparency about its sourcing and selling cashews grown by farmers who have been trained in organic, sustainable farming techniques.

2. Healthier for you

In our hectic, modern lifestyles, snacking fills the gap between traditional meals. But rather than just looking for a quick and accessible way to keep hunger at bay, consumers crave snacks that nourish them and provide an extra boost.

Appealing to rising awareness of the importance of mental health, some brands are answering this desire by integrating nootropics and adaptogens in snacks. In India, melatonin in beverages has jumped 16.2% annually for four years running, while in Thailand, magnesium is the mineral of choice, increasing by 15% in beverages. Eureka Drinks in Malaysia is one brand capitalising on this trend, adding valerian root, GABA, 5-HTP and L-theanine to promote restfulness in their Dream Aid Shot.

3. Amped up ingredients

Pushing the boundaries of flavour and category, brands are experimenting with unexpected and sophisticated ingredients. Take Savas in Japan, which is blurring the line between snacks and beauty products by offering a line of collagen protein shakes claiming to improve fine lines and increase skin hydration and elasticity.

Consumers are getting more adventurous too, with Innova reporting over 80% of those in the 26–35-year-old category say they love to discover new flavours. Think jalapeno, black truffle and mustard, or appeal to the surge in demand for plant-based products by rethinking the humble vegetable. Players like Temole are already capitalising on the trend, serving up oven-baked broccoli with a cheese coating.

4. Level up with tech

Technology has always been a driver of innovation and today it’s being used to deliver new, personalised snacking experiences across the ever-changing digital landscape. In China, Nestlé has launched an AI-powered virtual nutritional assistant in partnership with e-commerce company JD.Com. Modeled on JD’s DingDong smart speaker, the device answers questions about nutrition and health, customises recipes and plays music. But what’s in it for Nestlé? There’s that all-valuable opportunity to learn more about the consumer.

Brands are also innovating by calling on incubators to test out new processes and flavours before bringing products to market. Bugsolutely, which makes snacks using silkworm flour, worked with Chinese incubator BitsxBites on a 120-day acceleration program that saw 48 different flavour prototypes developed. After four rounds of testing with consumers, flavours including Fine Italian Herbs, Smoky Cumin and Salt & Vinegar went into mass production.

5. Don’t interrupt, connect

When the purpose is more important than ever, consumers are craving real, authentic communication from the brand they love. But there’s more than one way to connect. In the age of TikTok, some brands are tapping into viral and trending moments by entertaining and exciting consumers with interesting collaborations, or reaching for a higher emotional purpose by sharing personal stories.

Korean snack giant Nongshim teamed up with Crocs to create Banana Kick Crocs, inspired by one of their most iconic snack products. The unexpected pairing was a hit and came complete with the option to personalise the kicks with charms including Chicken Chips, Pawn Snack, Shrimp Crackers, Banana Kick and Potato Chip.

Australian snack brand Table of Plenty takes a different approach, with founder Kate Weiss building a loyal following by openly speaking about her mission and challenges. Driven by a deep-seated desire to do more than just tantalise taste buds, Kate sought to create food that nourishes and a business that inspires and educates. All this while creating a more flexible life to care for her daughter who suffers from a rare genetic disorder.

But how does this translate into your brand?

As snacking behaviours and preferences evolve, brands need to reassess the way they present themselves to today’s consumers. The process begins with asking:

  • How can we make our processes and practices more sustainable and what can we implement to reduce emissions?
  • Is there a way to ramp up nutrition by remixing favourites into healthier alternatives? How can we incorporate functional ingredients?
  • How can we experiment with ingredients, creating new flavours, categories and plant-based alternatives?
  • Is there a way to take advantage of technology to increase efficiency and create innovation? How can we make the consumer journey more personalised through technology?
  • Are we effectively communicating our vision, mission, story and collaborations as effectively as we can through branding and content?

The APAC snacking revolution is not just about satisfying hunger but about offering consumers a complete snacking experience that aligns with their values and lifestyles. By innovating and offering better experiences and options, brands can build emotional connections and loyalty with consumers, capturing this enormous opportunity.

Republished with permission from SGK.