Cheese snacking pleases
Image: Kerry Group
The savoury snack category grew by 5.8 per cent between 2017 and 2021 in sales with cheese flavours at the top of consumer wish lists, ingredients supplier Kerry reports in a recent survey
Of all the world’s snacking options, there is one that continues to dominate regardless of borders, cultures and trends: the savoury snack. From potato chips and crisps to popcorn and puffed snacks, savoury snacks are firm and irreplaceable friends in consumers’ lives. At the heart of these choices, cheese flavours continue to play a central, and starring, role. Indeed, while the market continues to grow, it is innovation with tried and trusted flavours that wins through in new product launches.
While launch activity for the entire savoury snacks category has slowed down over the last four years, innovation and new product launches in cheese-flavoured savoury snacks have held their ground. Over the past four years, new product launch activity in the savoury snack category slowed down, reporting a 5.9 per cent decline. However, cheese-flavoured savoury snack new product launches grew with consumers saying they wanted more nostalgic and comforting savoury snacks since the Covid-19 pandemic.
By studying the new product launch activity across 16 countries (Innova Database), the Kerry report, Revealing the Cheese, found the growth in cheese-flavoured savoury snack launches largely outpaced the entire savoury snack category, especially in China, US, India, and the UK; and cheese-flavoured snacks are set to accelerate in markets such as Mexico and South Africa. Kerry surveyed 8,790 consumers across 16 countries in Europe, Latin America, North America, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa to learn more about their snacking behaviours as they relate to cheese flavoured savoury snacks, while also studying new product launch activity.
It was found that consumers have a deeply positive perception of cheese flavours in savoury snacks, with 62 per cent stating that cheese flavours make savoury snacks more exciting, indicating potential for brands to connect with them emotionally. Cheese-flavoured snacks also outpaced the overall savoury snack category in new product launches, demonstrating a potential for innovation.
The consumer research dives into the emotional and functional relationship consumers have with cheese; the various cheese flavours they find most appealing; and their desire for adventure, comfort, indulgence and more in savoury snacks.
Perceptions around consumers’ love for cheese varied across different markets and geographies. In Australia, 91 per cent of consumers characterised their love for cheese driven by taste and flavour, compared to the 77 per cent global average. In markets as diverse as Poland, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, versatility drove consumers’ love of cheese as a complement to other foods and flavours, according to the Kerry report.
Consumers talk about loving cheese, and even being passionate about cheese-flavoured savoury snacks. Their most prominent perceptions range from cheese flavours being satisfying and healthy to fresh and indulgent. So, beyond the driver of taste, cheese flavours evoke a spectrum of strongly positive emotions. These also vary considerably depending on markets and cultures. Indulgent is a powerful association among European consumers, particularly in Sweden (66 per cent) and Poland (55 per cent), versus a 38 per cent global average. Meanwhile, comforting is a feeling particularly evoked in the UK (48 per cent), South Africa (43 per cent) and US (41 per cent), versus a 30 per cent global average. Fresh is very strongly associated with cheese flavours in Latin American countries including Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia and Honduras: 57 per cent average compared to the 44 per cent global average. Global consumers also believe cheese flavours make them ‘happy’, and this feeling is most pronounced in Asian countries – India (50 per cent), Indonesia (43 per cent), Thailand (45 per cent) and Turkey (48 per cent).
With their universal popularity, cheese flavours frequently rank as the top taste in product launches, market sales and consumer preferences globally. Cheddar is the most preferred cheese flavour in savoury snacks – often winning by a considerable distance. Even so, it is interesting that there is also a high acceptance of generic ‘cheese-flavoured’ savoury snacks, indicating the potential for versatile flavour innovation.
Different cheese flavours can have distinct and individual characteristics, provoking a wide variety of consumer reactions and emotions. Parmesan is considered bolder; 19 per cent against 17.5 per cent overall globally, while nacho cheese is considered more fun; 32 per cent versus 24 per cent overall globally.
Brie, Camembert, Grevé and other traditional cheeses (specific to a country) were considered the most indulgent cheese flavours, while Havarti (34 per cent) and Hokkaido (47 per cent) were considered the most adventurous.
Taste perceptions and preferences vary hugely around the world. Diving deeper into the taste perceptions of cheese-flavoured extruded (puffed) snacks, Kerry’s trained sensory panellists mapped the sensorial perceptions of market products from 14 countries. Cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan are popular among respondents in North America and Europe, while dairy flavours such as milk and cream play a central role in savoury snack flavours in Asian countries – particularly in China, Indonesia and Thailand. Kerry’s research also showcased how taste perceptions vary hugely around the world, with products tested for each country unique to that market. For instance, panellists described the Indonesian cheese-flavoured snacks as “buttery, creamy, sweet, mild and milky.”
Yet among US sensory panellists, their cheese-flavoured snacks were described as “savoury, sour, cheesy and buttery.”
The UK sensory map shows that panellists found two main groups (plus some outliers) for the cheese-flavoured snacks; “sweet and mild” and “strong and salty.”
Commenting on the research, Soumya Nair, Kerry global consumer research and insights director, said: “Cheese is a truly cultural experience, shaped by different geographies, generations of rich culinary history, local ingredients and traditions. Our research indicates that there is an opportunity to innovate in this space and bring new flavours to life across a variety of savoury snacks. But cheese flavoured snacks
also bring indulgence and a sense of adventures to consumers. Snack producers can be very creative in blending the traditional with the new.
“Although many consumers love classic, single-cheese flavours in savoury snacks, there is plenty of scope for mixing things up. A significant percentage, 50 per cent, tell us that creative additions such as herbs, spices and chilli are variants they look for.”
Key themes associated with consumer love of cheese:
- 77 per cent of global consumers stated taste as the reason they love cheese
- 40 per cent were driven by health and nutritious benefits of cheese
- 22 per cent liked the versatility of cheese and its use across foods
- 62 per cent said that cheese flavours make savoury snacks more exciting
Full details of the research findings across 16 countries are contained in Kerry’s eBook. For more information visit: https://explore.kerry.com/cheese-flavoured-snack-market.html