According to GlobalData, within the UK’s savoury snack market, the gluten-free claim will grow by over £128 million between 2016 and 2021. This is an increase in value of almost 50% in the space of just five years. So what is behind this surge?

As consumers become increasingly more health-conscious, innovation is key when overcoming challenges in the savoury snack industry. Hectic schedules and busy lives often means that on-the-go snacking has become commonplace as it allows consumers to reserve energy for longer without needing extra time or space. Although convenience has become one of the key factors, it is not without its drawbacks. Growing concerns around sugar, salt and artificial ingredients are driving consumers away from traditional snacks, whether towards healthier choices, broader influences from other cultures, or increased novelty factors.

Changing perceptions: a negative image

Even though snacking could supersede traditional meals, it is still associated with having a negative impact on health. While the influence of health is very important in savoury snacks, it is vital to remember that consumers will not want to compromise on flavours they enjoy. According to GlobalData research, flavour is the number factor coming in at 87% when consumers reflect on what to purchase. This is followed by health and nutrition at 80%, price at 75%, convenience and portability at 69% and pack size at 59%.

To change perceptions, brands have capitalised on the top two factors – flavour and health and nutrition – to appeal to consumers. One of the breakout products of recent years has been popcorn and it is rivalling the more traditional crisp packet. Market research experts put popcorn’s popularity down to perceived health benefits compared with traditional potato crisps.

Euromonitor analyst Mike Kruiniger said: “British consumers are moving away from traditional snacks because of increasing health concerns. It’s air-popped instead of fried”. Popcorn is low in calories, high in fibre and gluten-free contributing to its meteoric rise.

An unusual source: protein popularity

It isn’t only popcorn that is rising in popularity. An unlikely source of protein – insects – are now being pushed to the forefront. As protein diets influence the mass market, the industry is now fostering opportunities for new product development within the savoury snack sector, as globally, 76% of consumers are actively consuming protein as part of their daily diet.

Insect proteins have been slowly emerging on the market, mainly to countries such as the US in a form of flour. This came to light as insects can be a wholesome and highly nutritious food source and are considered to be a more sustainable alternative to traditional animal protein. Furthermore the flexibility to be used in a powder form makes this an exciting ingredient for the savoury snack category.