WFH sparks ‘Functional Snacking’ Trend

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Health is high on the agenda for Indian consumers. As a part of post-COVID-19 food and drink resolutions, 48 per cent of consumers say they would follow a diet that reduces the risk of lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, etc. Consumers are also prioritising natural ingredients, high protein and high fibre content in food. The growing shift towards healthy eating has, in turn, encouraged brands to innovate and reformulate with healthier snacks, without compromising on taste, throughout 2021.

Consumers, globally, are now treating their bodies like an ecosystem and seeking holistic solutions that complement their personal health and evolving needs. Health is, now, a major priority for most Indians, evident from  94 per cent of respondents in India who were impelled by the pandemic to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

This is especially true for consumers in the older age groups because they are the most vulnerable to the virus. With a focus on health and 50 per cent of consumers eating more healthily  – focusing more on nutrition, reducing salt/sugar/fat intake, etc- functionality in food and drink is now becoming the norm for most consumers.

Functional snack foods

With the ‘work-from-home’ concept prevailing throughout 2021, snacking has become more prevalent in every household. According to Mintel, larger pack sizes of snacks have seen increased demand for in-home consumption, especially in metro cities this year. However, as consumers grow conscious of their snacking habits, smaller packs can help consumers reduce the guilt of snacking.

So, to encourage higher usage and consumption of functional food and drinks, industry players, particularly the startups, are expanding into using traditional ingredients that combine both flavour and function in the form of reformulated snacks.

2021 saw the entry of many innovative snack-based products in the market, in the form of both foods and beverages (F&B). For instance, FMCG major Britannia recently launched potato-based biscuits under its brand 50-50.  ITC followed suit by launching  a similar variant under the Sunfeast brand. In addition, a new range of cracker biscuits with multigrain flours, flax seeds and sesame seeds also entered the market by Ludhiana-based Bonn Group this year.

Then we also saw South Korea-based confectionery firm Orion announcing its expansion plans in India with an investment of Rs 200 crore for increasing the production of its ‘choco-pie’ cookies.

Exploring new opportunities, Gorakhpur-based Crazy Snacks has entered into the cake segment with layer cakes and cupcakes, while Bengaluru-based Namdhari Group has ventured into the healthy snack realm by launching new products under the brand name Think Snack, comprising a range of fruit and vegetable chips, brown rice chips, popcorn, and makhana snacks.

Likewise, Future Consumer, the consumer products arm of Future Group, has forayed into healthy snacking with the launch of Terra Chips in India recently. This launch of  gluten-free vegetable chips is part of its joint venture with American foods company Hain Celestial that it entered into back  in 2017. Further, General Mills India, a part of the US-based Fortune 500 Company, General Mills, Inc. has now announced the launch of its ready to cook (RTC), two minutes Pillsbury Pancakes portfolio in India.

Snack bar is another space that has picked up pace in 2021 with new varieties and alternatives. For example, Mumbai-based Sun Pharmaceuticals stepped into this segment with nutrition bar- Revital NXT consisting of natural ginseng, 16 vitamins, minerals and triple blend protein. Mondelez India also announced its foray into the exciting snack bar category with the launch of new Cadbury Fuse Fit with healthy ingredients like cranberry, peanuts and almonds.

Flood of healthy drinks

On the beverage front, nourishing options such as packaged coconut water by Del Monte, plant-based almond drink by Hershey, immunity-boosting teas by Tata Consumers, and Southern Health Foods’ iron fortified women’s health drink, have been grabbing the consumers’ attention lately.

The year 2021 also witnessed participation from many startups that brought in a whole new bunch of ideas and experiments on the table. The long list ranges from India’s first probiotic chocolate (Lil’ Goodness) to first Ayurvedic herbs-based chocolate (Awsum); from spiced jaggery (Elixir Ingredients) to superfoods made up of spirulina (Prolgae); from high-protein almond cheese bars (Axia Foods) to vegan protein bars (O’ Greens); from plant-based chicken nuggets (Blue Tribes) to peanut curd (Goodmylk); and from spiced latte (Vieroots) to floral tea (Redplum).

It has indeed been heartening to see that marketplaces this year extended huge support to startups to showcase their products and give them space to brand their products even globally.

In addition, numerous snacking options have set foot into the market exclusively for children, by both big and small players. For example, Danone has stepped into the health drink category for children with the launch of AptaGrow; Fermentis Life Sciences has introduced an immunity boosting probiotic drink for kids under its nutrition brand BillionCheers; ‘Made to Order’ porridge range has been launched by Timios; vitamin B12 infused chocolate snack Kinder creamy is being offered by Ferrero India; and fruit yogurt for kids by MilkLane is fortified with vitamin A and D.

With snacks gradually developing into meal replacements in the new ‘work-from-home’ culture, plenty of opportunities are in store for the F&B industry to not only experiment with natural ingredients and flavours but also to reduce the growing burden of lifestyle diseases in the country by offering healthy and nourishing indulgences.

Let’s catch a glimpse of how the industry summarises the developments and challenges it experienced during 2021- ‘the year that went by’.


Dr Manbeena Chawla

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