Snacks take consumers on a worldwide journey with inventive global flavors

One hallmark of the COVID-19 pandemic is that while people were sheltering in place, their tastebuds were not. Consumers around the world, and particularly in the United States, were more open than ever to trying new tastes and textures. That was especially true of snacks, which were perfectly positioned to meet that demand for diversity, individuality and convenience.

“The ‘snackification’ of food culture and packaged food profusion are an expression of a more flexible, spontaneous and individual society,” says Sensient’s Terry Miesle, master flavorist. “There is a loosening of clear and learned structures of when, where and how to eat. With all this convenience and diversity, consumers’ palates have been exposed to global cuisines and flavors. More than ever, variety and ethnicity have become the spice of life.”

This evolution makes sense when studying how snacks have developed over time. For instance, chip seasoning mirrored condiments and even appetizers that accompanied meals. They are, in essence, a miniature of a larger food item — Tandoori chicken seasoning vs. an actual chicken wing, for instance. Not all flavor combos have been winners, certainly, but this is a space for innovation and invention.

At the same time, snacks have been forced to evolve with consumer demands for “better for you” foods with clean labels and nutritional upsides. For creators, that means moving away from potato, corn and wheat and toward multigrain, sweet potato, ancient grains, legumes and related items. 

Flavor trends also shift to meet demands for authenticity. Asian and Central American profiles are ruling the shelves, while Korean and North African profiles in particular are gaining popularity with their bold and aromatic seasonings.

Next up? Hybrid or co-branded opportunities, where the line between meals and snacks begins to blur. Mobile meals have always been with us, from bringing lunch to the office to buying food from street trucks and carts. The key is to keep an eye on these trends, not just for delivery, but also for flavor, so that you can be in on the “next big thing” wave.

Let’s talk about how we can work with your team to create the next generation of snack products that meet consumer demands and position your brand for continued growth.