Savoury Snacks On Fire: Spice & Chili Flavours Take The Lead

Monday, April 5th, 2021

Kerry predicts the spice and chili trend in savoury snacks to take on three directions in 2021.


Heat has always been a key taste profile driving flavour innovation for savoury snacks. The difference now is that changing consumer snacking patterns and behaviours have refocused heat towards intensity and specific heat from local chili varieties, even moving into new food categories, all to meet consumers’ growing demand for novel or premium taste experiences. With people more willing to experiment with culinary flavours in their snacks, hot and spicy tastes typically found in restaurant dishes are now emerging in snack flavours today.

“APMEA consumers love heat. There is such a diverse variety of ingredients that can deliver various levels of heat tied to local and specific countries. This makes it an exciting space for innovation,” says Ronan Moloney, Vice President & General Manager of Food and Meat at Kerry APMEA.

Chinese Five Spice, Indian Masala, and Wasabi were key tastes in savoury snacks last year. The pandemic likely had a strong influence over consumer preferences as we are seeing these flavours evolving to a greater variety of local tastes that have international appeal. This works two ways — satisfying consumers’ renewed interest in local tastes and flavours, and with restrictions on travel, people are looking for ‘international culinary experiences’ through snack flavours.

This growth is reflected in Kerry’s 2021 APAC Taste Charts, which list Japanese Sansho, Sichuan Mala, Sweet & Spicy Chili, Habanero Chili, Chipotle Chili and Cayenne Pepper as this year’s fastest growing flavours.


Chili Flavour Leads New Product Launches

Chili has been a mainstream flavour in Kerry Taste Charts for the last five years and its popularity continues to drive new launches. According to Chili Flavours: Trends Analysis Innova report, three out of five global food and beverage launches in 2019 had chili as the leading flavour accounting for 61% of all new launches, showing a compound growth rate of 2.3% per annum from 2015 to 2019.

Preferences shifted slightly between markets — Asia and Europe had the highest number of new launches with chili flavours making up over 65% of global launches, while China and the US led in the spices flavour category, making up 13.9% and 11.8% of new launches, respectively.

When it comes to chili flavour applications, snacks ranked second highest, with an annual growth rate of 26.8% — the highest amongst all categories. The subcategory of potato-based snacks tagged with Spices & Seeds flavours were the most popular with an average growth rate of 20.3% per annum, followed by meat snacks as the second fastest growing category with an annual growth rate of 44.5%.


Spice & Chili Trends: Three Ways

“There is a growing trend that focuses on specific and local chili, and provenance for authenticity across the region,” says Ronan Moloney. “Considering this, along with changing consumer demands, we see this trend taking three approaches: the extremely spicy and fiery category, chili and savoury combinations, and greater focus on local chili/spice varieties.”

Extremely spicy and fiery

Preference for intense heat is evident in new snack launches targeted at consumers who enjoy intensely flavoured snacks. Research by Kalsec which measured the concentration of major capsaicinoids in products, determined that consumers in Asia prefer a higher level of heat as compared to their counterparts in US and UK — the ‘hottest’ intensity products in the Europe only had the same concentration as ‘mild’ products from APAC. An example of new savoury snack launches from the APAC in this category include extra hot banana chips from Indonesia (Jul 2020). Elsewhere, there were roasted cashews with fiery chilli flavour from the UK (Sep 2020) and 3-pepper fire gourmet pickle chips from the US (Aug 2020) .

Chili and savoury combinations

The consumer’s love for chili coupled with their willingness to experiment with new flavours has led to more chili taste innovations. We see this in new snack launches that pair chili with other savoury flavours such as jalapeno and dill crisps from Belgium (September 2020) and sweet chili and shrimp flavour from China (Dec 2020). Creating winning flavour pairings calls for both science and technology. For example, Kerry’s network of chefs and R&D scientists work with findings from its proprietary AI tool Kerry TrendSpotterTM , which predicts trending ingredients and flavours, to bring authentic taste to innovative flavours that likely have great consumer appeal.

Specific and local chili varieties

Local inspiration will have a big influence on taste innovation this year. To satisfy consumer demand for authentic local tastes, there will be greater focus on native chili and spice varieties as seen in new potato snack launches in Indonesia featuring fried chili flavour (Oct 2020) and masala flavoured snacks from India (Nov 2019).


Chili Spicing Up New Food Categories

Walk down the aisle of the supermarket and you will see heat in almost all categories, from savoury snacks to instant noodles. “Now, heat is moving to new food categories such as spicy ice cream in China and an Indian-spiced buttermilk in India,” reveals Claire Sullivan, Strategic Marketing Director for Food and Meat at Kerry APMEA.

The spicy chili ice cream in China, like the spicy mulberry Cornetto, combines flavours with different spices such as Sichuan pepper, chili oil, or wasabi. The result is a numbing, tingling explosion of sweet and spicy flavours.

In India, amidst growing demand for traditional Indian flavours, Coca-Cola took on a local approach by introducing a new local flavour in their VIO beverage brand — the VIO Spiced Buttermilk, a flavoured buttermilk drink featuring Indian flavours. This comes after local consumers started rediscovering ‘desi’ (Indian) flavours and replicating them in packaged foods and beverages.

Ultimately, consumers are looking for food and beverages that deliver more than just great taste. They want novel, bespoke experiences, among other expectations, which means the heat is definitely on for snacks flavour innovation as consumer demands become increasingly sophisticated.