Clean Label Snacking Combines Two Trends In One

Monday, September 16th, 2019

Sweet or savoury, the snacking industry is well-positioned to meet both of these changing dietary habits. By CP Kelco.

Did you know that Asia recorded the largest number of snack product launches of any region last year (up to 15 May, 2019)? There were 13,786—almost double the number launched in Western Europe, according to Innova Market Insights. It’s safe to say that Asia has quite the appetite for sweet and savoury snacks! And where competition is booming, innovation and trends are sure to follow. The biggest of those trends is “clean label.”

Clean label claims, such as organic, no preservatives and all natural, are some of the fastest growing in the region, with Innova Market Insights data indicating that no additives/preservatives was the leading health claim for Asian dairy products and the number three positioning overall in 2017, used for 16 percent of launches. However, the clean label trend goes beyond just removing additives and preservatives. It has become an all-encompassing term that can mean different things to consumers and companies. Even more confusing—it can vary by country or region. CP Kelco recently documented “seven ways to clean up your label”. Solutions included reducing the number of ingredients in your formulation to using ingredients better recognised by consumers, to using vegan, organic and gluten-free ingredients, to reducing sugar and fat.


What’s Trending Across APAC Countries

Maybe a better way to decipher clean label is to look at what’s trending in new products. According to a July 2019 confectionery report from Innova Market Insights, the following claims are popular in product launches in these countries:

China—Novel and fun, digestive/gut health, no additives/preservatives

Japan—Immune health, novel and fun, traditional, chocolate with high fibre

Malaysia—Natural, vegan, novel and fun (36 percent of products feature Halal positioning)

Philippines—No additives/preservatives, sugar free

Indonesia—Gluten-free, low sugar, immune health, organic chocolate with antioxidants (62 percent of products feature Halal positioning)


What’s interesting is that indulgent sweet and savoury treats have always been considered impulse buys. We see that “novel and fun” is still an important attribute so it’s clearly the case in attracting the consumers’ attention. But it’s obvious that the clean label mega trend is having an impact on this industry—with even new concepts such as gut health being incorporated into snacks. To the Asian consumer, every bite counts—and not just at mealtime. In 2018, Halal and vegetarian claims jumped in Asia because of higher penetration and growth, according to Innova Market Insights. Together, they grew a combined 33 percent in all confectionery products launched.


The Rise Of Vegan Confectionery

So, how does a confectionery company known for its decadent snacks play into the clean label trend? We’re seeing that consumers aren’t ready to give up their sweet treats. Because of religious dietary restrictions (Halal, Kosher), or just a preference for a vegan/vegetarian diet, people are just refraining from confections that contain bovine- or porcine-derived gelatin. Luckily, there are nature-based, vegan ingredient solutions that can complement your formulation and manufacturing processes. Pectin, carrageenan and gellan gum can all be used to replace gelatin. Pectin can become your new go-to for sugar-free, vegetarian jellies. Carrageenan, especially, may help you achieve that elastic, chewy texture that most closely resembles gelatin in fruit chews and marshmallow candies. An added side benefit is the heat stability of these nature-based ingredients in warmer climates where gelatin is prone to melt at high ambient temperatures. After all, no one likes their gummy bears sticking together.


Are Nature-Based Ingredients Part Of Your Toolbox?

It might be helpful to better understand where pectin, carrageenan and gellan gum come from. Pectin is probably the most easily recognizable of the three. It’s a label-friendly ingredient that consumers understand and accept as “natural.” Pectin is derived from citrus peels and sometimes sugar beets. Even the pectin production story is a sustainable one as the ingredient is a by-product of the juice industry. The pulp and peel that would be thrown away after juicing is upcycled into another very beneficial product. Then, after the pectin is extracted from the peel, what remains is turned into animal feed so there’s very little waste. Pectin can help formulators who want to reduce sugar or create sugar-free, fruit-flavoured jellies while also maintaining their pleasing texture. Pectin can also be used in new processing and jelly deposition lines that are replacing the old, traditional moghul/starch moulds, thus facilitating higher productivity and development of novelty products.

Carrageenan is derived from red seaweed or Irish Moss, to be exact. It has been used safely for hundreds of years. As a plant-based thickener and gelling agent, carrageenan can replace starch and gelatin in recipes without giving up creaminess. It sets rapidly for starchless moulding and can help with the development of non-acidic flavoured jellies, such as coconut and mints.

Gellan gum is a soluble dietary fibre produced through fermentation, using bacteria identical to that found on the water lily plant. It’s extremely effective at very low use levels in forming gels. It provides excellent flavour release when you want a burst of flavour without the rubbery texture of other gelling agents. Used in combination with other ingredients, gellan gum can help you produce a range of interesting textures in gums and candies. There are also a variety of grades available of pectin, carrageenan and gellan gum to meet allergen-free and non-GMO claims, among others.


Snack Away!

We see two trends converging in the always-innovative Asian region. One is that quick-fix snacking is replacing traditional meals for a variety of reasons. Our changing, faster-paced lifestyles may prompt an increase in snacking as we find less time to do meal planning and preparation. Also, more consumers across all age demographics are likely to live in single-person households. Because snacks tend to be packaged in single-serve portions, it becomes a very convenient option. Combine this with the global consumer wellness trend, and suddenly the market for “better-for-you” snacks is wide open. Yes, there’s still a demand for treats but nature-based ingredients become more desirable to consumers reading the label. Sweet or savoury, the snacking industry is well-positioned to meet both of these changing dietary habits.


Further reading:

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