Millennials and their snacking preference

Millennials love to snack. In fact, many millennials see snacking as a necessity and snack foods make up the dominant meal of the day for many in this generation. They are more likely to snack four times or more a day, according to Mintel research[1]. In addition, they are expected to have a major impact on global consumer market as their average income will more than double from USD5,900 in 2014 to USD13,000 in 2024.

The Asia Pacific region especially, with its comparatively younger population and burgeoning middle income group, is poised to be the fastest growing snack market in the world[2]. It is no wonder that food and beverage businesses across the globe are scrambling to cater to this target market. For example, fast food chain McDonald’s had introduced snack items like twisty pasta soup in Hong Kong, cheese and egg served in a Filipino-style bread roll in the Philippines and wholegrain muffins in various markets including Singapore.

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What do millennials want?

So, millennials want easily accessible, simple to consume convenient food — also known as snack food. However, that is not all. Millennial consumers want their snacks to be flavourful, and they want them to be healthy and nutritious. Why is this so?

That is because this group of consumers grew up in the information age and most of them have participated in school nutrition programmes. This makes them aware of the importance of eating healthy and subsequently, cultivate a preference to go for snacks that offer lower calories or are high in nutritional value. For example, global confectionary company Mondelez is enjoying huge success after they introduced Oreo Thins[3], a slimmer version of their classic cookie product with less cream filling and fewer calories per cookie.

At the same time, millennials are a well-travelled group, compared to the generations that came before them. Many millennial consumers are looking for exotic foreign experiences. A recent survey[4] revealed that millennial travellers want to fully immerse themselves into new cultures, and feast on local cuisine. This trend is also driving a strong influence on the food industry as manufacturers strive to offer creative products with international flavours. Snacks that come in flavours like Indian tandoori, French truffle, Japanese teriyaki, Korean kimchi, Mexican Salsa, Thai tomyum, etc. are not uncommon now.

Simply put, snacks that offers exciting flavours and good nutritional value would do well with this group of consumers.

The market makes its move

 Food industry players who understand their millennial customers are offering healthier snack products with exciting flavours. One way they have been going about this is through the application of functional ingredients.

Slow release carbohydrates are popular with manufacturers looking to offer snacks with lower glycaemic profiles. There are two ways in which manufacturers tap on functional ingredients to offer products that solicit lower blood glucose responses:

  • Modifying the glucose supply with fully available, yet low glycaemic carbohydrates, such as Palatinose (isomaltulose)
  • Replacing sugar with partially available carbohydrates such as the sugar replacer isomalt

Palatinose is an innovative, next generation sugar derived from pure beet sugar. It is the only low glycaemic carbohydrate that is fully digestible, while still providing sustained energy. It is hydrolysed four to five times more slowly by the enzymes in the small intestine as compared to common sugars like glucose or sucrose. This allows it to guarantee a balanced energy supply without sharp peaks and dips in the blood glucose response curve. As a result, snacks such as cereal bars, donuts and muffins that contain Palatinose help consumers get through a busy day without feelings of tiredness or cravings shortly after eating.

On the other hand, manufacturers may take the approach of replacing fully available carbohydrates with partially available or non-available ones in their snack products. Numerous studies have demonstrated that blood glucose and insulin levels rise only minimally after the consumption of isomalt due to its low glycaemic index of 2. It has a very similar organoleptical profile to sugar with only half the calories (2.4kcal/g). As a bulk sweetener, isomalt allows for a 1:1 replacement of sugar in snacks and with its low hygroscopicity, it helps to enhance the storage stability of various snacks such as candies, biscuits and cookies.

Other than carbohydrates, manufacturers are also using functional fibres such BENEO’s prebiotic dietary fibres Orafti Inulin and Orafti Oligofructose to create a ‘sugar out, fibre in’ approach in their snack products. Inulin and oligofructose are naturally extracted from chicory root and not digested by stomach enzymes, allowing them to have minimal impact on blood glucose levels.These chicory root fibres have a prebiotic effect on our digestive system, which means that they can positively influence our gut micro flora by supporting ‘good bacteria’. This results in a healthy intestinal environment with improved stool frequency.

Food and lifestyle choices

Like most consumers, millennials want to get the most out of life, whether it is about caring for the family, building a successful career or aiming for personal achievements — like climbing a mountain or running a marathon. Modern day life for millennials is often fast paced and many naturally turn to snacking to keep their energy levels up throughout the day.

Innovative food manufacturers can cater to the demands of their millennial customers by coming up with creative and nutritionally balanced snacks through the use of functional ingredients such as Palatinose, isomalt and prebiotic dietary fibres. These healthier snacks are able to support consumers in their efforts to stay on a low glycaemic and high- fibre diet while providing sugar and fat replacement benefits.

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