Friday, March 10, 2017

Dairy Foods Snacking: Why Sugar Content Matters

The modern era of snackified eating has fully emerged, according to The Hartman Group. And based on the innovations debuting at Natural Products Expo West today, the snack food industry is in for a real shake up.

Yesterday was the soft-start to Expo West, with attendees able to explore innovations from many of the 600 first-time exhibitors in the Fresh Ideas tent and the satellite exhibit halls. From plant protein bites to meat jerkies to pulse chips, these exhibitors are targeting the growing the snack daypart. They are smart.

Research from The Hartman Group shows that 91% of consumers are snacking multiple times throughout the day. (This figure was 90% less than a year ago.) Snacking is essential to daily eating for most Americans and accounts for 50% of all eating occasions. In fact, about 7% of these snacking consumers forego meals all together and instead graze their way through the day. This is being driven by Millennials, which means it’s a trend that is going to intensify in the next few years.

With snacking being an all-day affair, snacks must be tailored in appearance, calories, nutrition, taste and texture to meet consumers’ expectations. The Hartman Group identified three key snacking drivers—nourishment, optimization and pleasure—that represent a thematic shift towards individualized and intentional snacking. Sugar replacement

“Many companies continue to market to what we imagine when we think of meals and snacks: the bowl of cereal, the lunchtime sandwich, a quick bag of chips and the family to share the meat and potatoes,” writes The Hartman Group in its hot-off-the-presses “The Future of Snacking 2016” report. “By speaking only to these images, companies are missing out on new opportunities emerging from the dynamic changes taking place in American culture (in general) and our eating culture (specifically).”

The report explains that there’s a confluence of several cultural shifts that have led to the prominence of snacking. 

  • These shifts include the erosion of food rituals centered on the nuclear family, rapidly changing wellness and culinary trends, and the growing access people have to food and food types.
  • As eating experiences that tend to be individualized and not shared, snacks are able to address consumer needs in ways that traditional meals often cannot.
  • The boundary between meals and snacks is blurring, but most people understand a meal to be shaped by cultural traditions around timing, setting and food groups. Snacks, on the other hand, are highly personalized and variable.
  • Snacks often punctuate and bridge larger eatings but happen fluidly and spontaneously, often during other activities. As such, they are low or no prep and more easily satisfy demands for immediacy.
  • They are likewise less substantial, often containing fewer than 200 or 300 calories, and people do not hold snacks to the same nutritional standards as meals.

Dairy foods are well poised to take charge of the snacking daypart. There are products that talk to all three drivers: nourishment, optimization and pleasure.

When it comes to nourishment, the inherent, as well as added protein in dairy foods assists with hunger abatement. Dairy’s natural, as well as added sugars, combined with the protein and fat provides sustained energy to help maintain one’s reserves of stamina to meet the demands of life. Dairy beverages address hydration, another critical nourishment need.

Regarding optimization, dairy products can be formulated to provide quick energy, bringing energy back to one’s baseline or even provide an extra boost of strength and vitality. What’s key here is the product should not raise blood sugar and then take the consumer into a quick crash and burn. Sugar management is paramount.

“Lowered sugar contents for optimum energy,” this is a key message being communicated by exhibitors at Expo West. It also speaks to the Nutrition Facts label that will soon require a separate line for “added sugars.”

And finally, there’s the driver of pleasure. Consumers find comfort in dairy foods and can satisfy their cravings with the many varied tastes and textures. This past week at the International Dairy Foods Association Ice Cream Tech conference in Las Vegas, I discussed how ice cream needs to be made into a snack. There are so many options in the novelty format. Load them up with fruits and nuts, keep added sugars low, and you have the ideal “craving” snack.

Sugar content and sugar form matters. Research commissioned by BENEO in 2016 and conducted by Ipsos showed that consumers are gaining a better understanding that not all sugars are alike. The study of 1,000 U.S. consumers was undertaken to obtain a better understanding of consumers’ perceptions of sugar, carbohydrates and the benefits of nutrition that supports a lower blood glucose response and energy management. Those surveyed indicated that along with looking for foods that are natural, clean label and nutritious without “empty calories,” they also pay close attention to the levels of sugar that are contained in their food choices. Consumers prefer nutritional foods that not only sustain energy throughout the day, but also help with weight management, healthy eating and disease prevention.

Additionally, the results revealed that consumer health concerns in order of importance are weight management (38%), stress (35%) and fatigue (33%). Respondents indicated they are aware that the amount and type of sugars play a major role in coping with these health issues. In fact, 57% of the consumers polled said they try to cut their sugar intake. A healthy diet (58%), weight management (56%) as well as tooth decay and diabetes (37% and 28%, respectively) were named by respondents as concrete reasons to limit sugar intake. On the other hand, respondents said they are not prepared to completely forego sugar, with taste being the number one reason at 58%. Twenty-four percent said sugar provides essential energy and 20% indicated that sugar acts as a mood food.

While consumers said they have an ambivalent relationship to sugar, they indicated that there is awareness that some sugars are better for their health than others. Sugar from honey for example, was perceived as the most appealing sweetener in the U.S because it is natural. Furthermore, about two out of three respondents agreed that naturally derived sugars from fruits, vegetables and plants are healthier (64%). A similar number also said they preferred natural sugars to low calorie sweeteners (65%). Finally, 60% of the consumers polled indicated their ideal sweetener would not lead to a “sugar boost and crash effect.”

Many of the products being debuted at Expo West address sugar content. For example, Yooli artisan-style farmer’s cheese, which made its debut at the 2016 expo tweaked its formula over the past year to be lower in added sugars. This protein-packed snack delivers 17 to 18 grams per 4.4-ounce container. The product comes in Honey Lemon Zest (super yummy!), Strawberry and Vanilla varieties, delivering 170 to 180 calories, 2.5 grams of fat and 15 grams of sugar.

The Yooli Bars are all about on-the-go snacking. These are farmer’s cheese with coconut, strawberry or vanilla and enrobed in dark chocolate. A 50-gram bar contains 100 to 130 calories, 10 to 11 grams of sugar and 6 to 7 grams of protein. Check them out at the satellite expo hall in the Hilton at booth 529.

Naturi (booth 8924) is another exhibitor that emphasizes the lower sugar content of its yogurts. The company’s newest flavors are Coffee + Chicory and Pineapple + Coconut, each with 13 grams of protein and a mere 12 grams of sugar per 5-ounce container.

Hope to see you on the Expo floor today or tomorrow. Sugar replacement

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