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Sep 30, 2017

Bags of flavour

by Nina McCoy - Senior Account Director

Bags of flavour

The UK snacks market is worth nearly £3 billion a year with crisps alone accounting for almost half of that figure, according to snack industry valuations. Health concerns however are prompting users to cut back with 42% of respondents, questioned earlier this year by Mintel, saying they are limiting the amount of crisp and crisp-style snacks they are buying compared to a year ago.

Product innovation continues therefore to move up manufacturers’ wish lists as consumers search for more interesting product formats and flavour combinations and retailers increase their demand for new products with a real point of difference.

It’s not clear who came up with the first flavoured crisps in the UK but certainly the likes of Tayto, with a cheese and onion line, Golden Wonder and, shortly afterwards, Smiths with salt ‘n’ vinegar were there at the start in the late 50’s, early 60’s.

Since then we have seen a multitude of combinations hit the shelves from the classic Hedgehog flavour snacks, back in 1981, to Mackie’s current Whisky & Haggis Crisps in store today.

Walkers current “Choose Me or Lose Me” campaign plays on this flavour history by pitting three classic UK flavours against three from around the world, with consumers being asked to vote to keep the ones they love.

Thomas Barkholt, Marketing Director at PepsiCo, says: “The campaign is based on the importance of snacks to British consumers and the opportunity to have their say. Our consumers feel passionately about their favourite Walkers flavours and we wanted to give them the opportunity to vote in regards to which flavours will be staying on shelves.”

Another approach, being taken by manufacturers, is to align their flavouring strategies with recognised, established and often loved partners to attract a wider audience and thus help extend the third party’s own brand franchises.

Heinz Ketchup, Marmite, HP Sauce, Lea & Perrins and a host of other sauces and condiments have followed similar paths with the latest, Tabasco, forming an alliance with Doritos.

The product, Doritos Roulette, was first launched without a named sauce link but has since been redeveloped to give its chili content more focus and to improve its credentials amongst a heat seeking audience. Each bag now contains hidden Tabasco flavoured tortilla chips in every handful for that added flavour burst and the launch is being supported with extensive media, TV and social marketing investment. Will Robinson, Brand Manager at parent company PepsiCo, said: “Roulette is a popular choice with consumers as it is a playful product that lends itself to social occasions with friends and we are confident the new Tabasco sauce variant will help boost sales for retailers.”

This love of named ingredients has even extended into the KETTLE® portfolio of late with the company first launching a full range of partnership inspired, premium crisps under the Chefs Signature brand then following this up recently with a rebranded Discoveries product.

Gressingham Duck®, Plum Sauce & Spring Onion and Yorkshire Wensleydale Cheese & Cox Apple Chutney are two that feature in the new collection. Phil Hovey, the KETTLE® Chef behind the range, says it is “all about our love of food and great taste, taking inspiration from a variety of sources – favourite dishes, restaurants, street markets, and new foods discovered whilst travelling both at home and abroad.”

 The relationship between named flavours and snacks is also extending into other parts of the market with popcorn and nuts following in the path of crisps and baked lines.

One new opportunity is being exploited by The Snaffling Pig Co, a successful Dragons Den start up, with the introduction of their Ham & Colman’s Mustard flavoured pork scratchings.

“When it came to creating our version of the gift from the porky gods that is the combo of pork and mustard, we didn’t want just any old flavour”, commented a company spokesman, “we wanted the legend that is Colman’s. Anything else just wouldn’t cut the… err… mustard”.

It really is left to the imagination what the next round of snacking delights the industry has in store for us but I expect, given the rapid pace of innovation, it won’t be too long before we find out. What’s your money on?

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