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Healthy snacking

Healthy snacking is on the rise in China, with Chinese consumers eating more nuts, seeds, fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy based snacks, new research shows, while more than a quarter of them are eating less chocolate confectionery.

While snacking is often thought of as an indulgent and convenient alternative to traditional meal times, many consumers are now focusing on their health, creating new opportunity for healthy snacks. Mintel’s new report reveals that four in 10 (40%) urban Chinese consumers eat more nuts and seeds today compared to six months ago.

Pointing to the rise in popularity of these healthy snacks, 58% of consumers say that nuts and seeds taste good and 44% say they are convenient to eat, while only 9% say nuts and seeds are unhealthy.

It seems that nuts are high in demand in China as product launch activity is also on the rise. According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), 17.5% of snack products launched in China between 2014 and 2016 were nuts, compared to 15.3% of those launched globally.

The healthy snacking trend is contributing to the growing popularity of nuts and seeds in retail channels as well. In China’s retail snack market, nuts and seeds is the largest category, with a retail value of CNY263.7 billion ($38.24bn). The segment is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 10.7% in terms of value between 2015 and 2020, reaching CNY345.bn.

Ching Yang, senior food and drink analyst at research firm Mintel, says, “Chinese consumers have become more aware of the health benefits of nuts and seeds. Now, it seems that eating nuts and seeds is no longer something to do to kill time while chatting with friends, but part of the overall pursuit of a healthy and trendy lifestyle.

“Therefore, companies should consider packing up the traditional nuts and seeds bulk products in favour of branded products that are positioned as a healthy snack. We’re seeing a number of the nuts brands thriving when leveraging this consumer trend.”

The research also reveals that six in 10 (61%) consumers associate a healthy snack with ‘all-natural’, while 42% associate it with ‘fortified with additional nutrients’. One third (31%) of Chinese consumers associate healthy snacks with ‘high in protein’ and the demographic skews towards male consumers aged 25-29 (42%). What’s more, four in 10 (41%) Chinese consumers aged 40-49 associate healthy snacks with ‘low in salt’.

In addition, it indicates that 26% of urban Chinese consumers are eating less chocolate confectionery today compared to six months ago, while 23% are eating more.

However, 63% of Chinese consumers are eating more fresh fruits and vegetables as snacks, and 42% are eating more dairy based snacks.

Yang adds, “Chinese consumers have rising awareness of their sugar and fat intake. Therefore, more consumers are switching to fresh fruits and vegetables or dairy based foods for snacking. This suggests a growing opportunity for food and drinks brands that enjoy a healthy perception (for example, dietary supplements, cereals and yogurt) to tap into the snacking occasion by developing snack format products.

“Our research shows that Chinese females are concerned with calories, while Chinese males care about protein. With this in mind – and the fact that the average sodium level in China’s meat snacks is lower than the global average and the level is decreasing over time – the ‘reduced sodium’ claim is still rarely seen on meat snacks and, therefore, could be leveraged to meet consumer needs.”

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