The Global Appetite Is Growing for Sustainable Snacks

By Sally Lyons Wyatt, IRI

Snacking is a fun and continually innovating area of CPG. But over the past few years, it has only grown. In my recent webinar, “Snack Sensations Around the World,” I highlighted some key snacking trends that my IRI colleagues across the world are seeing in their home countries. A review of these trends revealed some notable country-by-country differences in emerging snack flavors, channel shifts and packaging trends.

But one trend that kept coming up again and again was sustainability in snacking. While the specifics may vary somewhat by geography, six clear trends have emerged, which I believe are poised to grow over time across several markets.

  1. A shift to more sustainable packaging.
    We are seeing a growing replacement of non-recyclable plastic snack packaging by more sustainable options. This includes a broad shift to paper and cardboard in Germany. In New Zealand, a very popular chip brand is now using high-barrier compostable packaging, Cadbury has shifted to recycled packaging, and Kit Kat has even featured “Recycle me, give the planet a break” messaging on its recyclable soft plastic packs in countries like Australia. In Japan, confectioners Meiji and Morinaga have switched to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper for packaging. Other sustainable plastic alternatives are being created too. One company in Norway has even developed edible straws and compostable packaging made of seaweed.
  2. A growing focus on socially responsible certifications.
    In countries like Germany, we’re seeing more brands tout Fair Trade, Slave Free Chocolate and other certifications. In New Zealand, a major chocolatier is touting its Rainforest Alliance Certification for supporting the social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainability. And Italy is seeing growth in the marketing of these and several other certifications, including those from the FSC, UTZ and several sustainable seafood organizations.
  3. Store innovations to support packaging reuse.
    In the UK, co-ops where people bring their own containers and fill them from bulk snack displays are popping up in more locations. The leading grocer Tesco has instituted the Loop packaging reuse program, and Asda has launched what it describes as the UK’s largest refill store. GoodFor in New Zealand's entire store model revolves around allowing customers to fill and refill on pantry and household goods using their own containers. And one retailer in the Netherlands provides all its snack products in refillable glass jars and has a waiting list for additional customers.
  4. An expansion of upcycling.
    More and more snacks are also being made of food products that would otherwise have gone to waste. In the U.S., upcycled imperfect fruits and vegetables are increasingly being used to make snacks. In New Zealand, Upcycled Grain Project takes the wasted grain from beermaking and turns it into crackers. And Japan’s Glico recently launched a new snack made from surplus strawberries from a canceled strawberry-picking event.
  5. An emphasis on local credentials.
    Pride of country is resonating and could be a candidate for expansion. It also offers the dual marketing appeal of both supporting local farmers and being more eco-friendly.
  6. More cause-based marketing.
    Tying snack product sales to charitable efforts is another growing trend. Switzerland’s Chocolates Halba ties purchases to tree planting. Chobani Australia has launched a partnership with Foodbank to help fight food insecurity across Australia and has donated the equivalent of a million meals so far. And this kind of co-branding for the greater good figures to be a source of more and more partnerships in the future. These kinds of community-focused partnerships can be a great way for snack brands to not only do good, but also achieve sustainability differentiation.

Definitions of sustainability in the snack industry are ever-widening, along with new innovations in how these products are being more sustainably sourced, manufactured, packaged, credentialed, reused and marketed. Given the premiums consumers are willing to pay for these products across many countries around the world, it’s safe to assume that the appetite for sustainable snack products will only continue to grow in the years ahead.

With our expertise in market measurement and innovation, IRI helps companies that are tired of nibbling around the edges of sustainability. We can help you determine how your products can meet this growing consumer demand. Contact your IRI representative or to learn more.

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