Out of Hours: Nuts and nibbles
As the boundaries between ‘conventional’ mealtimes blur due to increasing hectic schedules, nutritious snacking throughout the day has become more common. Sonia Sharma explores this new nibble wave
Long gone are the days of set meal times where breakfast was served at 7am, lunch at 12pm and dinner at 6pm. With more of us working alternative timetables, it seems that we have also taken a similar approach to our designated eating times.
With the decline of set meals slowly fading away into obscurity something else has moved in to supplement the lack of customary cooking. The snack food market has widely expanded as artisan products and premium brands offer consumers more choices. We profile the market to see where this exciting area is heading.
Snack appeal: handmade and luxury alternatives
The rise of the 'snack' has been a gradual process. When we think about snacks, greasy and high-calorific items may come to mind, however a new uprising of handmade and luxury snacks have come to light. The new selection of snack products on the market have a range of intriguing flavours that give consumers a healthy wholesome selection to curb their cravings.
With today's on-the-go mentality then, it's no wonder that 'snacking' has increased. Mark Taylor, managing director of Filbert's Fine Foods says the premium adult snack market is growing at over 9% per annum and believes the increase is down to "the demand for healthier snacks and the demand for appetising snacks as an indulgent adult treat." Owner and founder of popcorn company Popcorn Kitchen Clare Sykes agrees saying: "I think it's just a general backlash against big corporates to be honest and people wanting to eat more locally and know where their food comes from."
She explains: "Anything artisan, I think you'd expect to have less 'nasties' in than something that is more commercially produced and specifically where popcorn is concerned, it's a high fibre, relatively low in fat product so in terms of a snack, weight for weight, you are much better off eating popcorn than you are eating crisps, chocolate, biscuits or cakes."
A tasty trip: adventurous and exotic flavours
Aside from the demand for traceability, snacking has become more adventurous. A bite sized nibble allows the consumer to experience the exotic flavours without committing to an entire meal. Director and founder of the Duke of Delhi, Asif Walli, has found that merging different flavours together can prove to be successful.
He says: "The Duke of Delhi is all about creating a mix of British and Indian foods. Like myself, a British Indian, the Duke of Delhi represents the best of both cultures whilst pushing the boundaries of what we can do with Indian and British products."
The Duke of Delhi, which sells products such as their 'Delhi Mix' - a mixture of ingredients such as puffed rice, dark chocolate and seeds - has created a product that is both unique and intriguing.
Walli adds: "In other countries like Japan there is a greater appetite for amazing concoctions. Lots of research is out there about how we want to try new things, excite our pallet and taste something we ordinarily would never think would work."
Mark also thinks the diverse ingredients are a main avenue to success. Mr Filberts creates 'inventive snacks' such as Moroccan Spiced Almonds and Peruvian Pink Peppercorn Cashews & Peanuts. He says people have "a taste for exotic flavours and fusion foods such as Mediterranean, Thai and Mexican. We have been delighted by the praise heaped on our Moroccan Spiced Almonds, winning Gold at the Taste of the West Awards - these are oven roasted, then tumbled in local honey, garlic, chipotle chillies and fresh mint."
A new palette: artisan products become more popular
With snacking taking inspiration from all corners of the globe, gourmet popcorn maker Sykes believes that artisan is just getting started. "I think people are going to increasingly shy away from big mass produced brands and look for smaller artisan products because it comes back to the whole local supply and knowing where your products come from," she says.
To give her popcorn individuality, Sykes - who produces the popcorn in four flavours - does something a little different. She says: "Most of the salt popcorn that you actually buy doesn't taste of very much at all, the salt all falls off into the bottom of the bag, it's all a bit average ... so we actually pop it in olive oil, that adds the flavour, which gives it quite a nice buttery taste so it's got something else going on rather than just the salt."
In order to continue the snack revolution, the adventurous flavours will need to go a step further. She says: "I think that the market will need to reflect that in the flavours that are being offered, it will no longer be enough to just say it's chilli, it will need to have a provenance, a type of chilli and perhaps another flavour added in there as well to really give the depth of the flavour and experience that people are starting to expect."