Puffed and extruded snacks cover a lot of ground: from cheese snacks to mixed grain fries and pork rinds, they dominate the snack aisle. They cover a wide range of snacking occasions, from fun and indulgent to better served just for you.
Today, we are seeing an expansion in the puffs and puffed snacks category, in part due to consumer demand for better food. The food industry has taken note of the cooking and shopping patterns of today's shoppers and has found snacking to be a perfect fit for today's busy lifestyles. However, portable snacking is not enough.
New products often reflect trends that are better for you and/or clean label. The consumer desire to eat better is a trend. Whether it's making small adjustments by looking for cleaner ingredients, no artificiality, or adding more protein and fiber to their diet. Another broad trend we're seeing is an overall interest in alternative ingredients like cauliflower, peas, lentils, cassava and other vegetables. But consumers are increasingly not sacrificing taste and experience for better health.
Another major trend is extruded fried tacos. This category is growing rapidly, and manufacturers are responding by steadily increasing the capacity of their systems. Clean labels with authentic ingredients and plant-based snacks are among the most popular this year. New flavors with regional and ethnic influences and sweet/savory flavor combinations are popular.
Snacks with added nutrients from vegetables (mushrooms, peas, cauliflower, broccoli) and root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, cassava, carrots, beets and onions will also be popular as busy consumers use snacks as a meal replacement.
Consumers are looking for alternative sources of protein, and plants are a good choice compared to animal protein, which has a lower environmental impact. Plant protein-rich snack foods allow consumers to combine feeling good about the planet and "my health" with "indulgence. Vegan, gluten-free and alternative grains are likely to continue to be major trends.
In addition, innovation is key in the snack market, so it is beneficial for snack manufacturers to have the flexibility to produce different varieties of snacks, or even entirely new products, without the need for capital expenditures. Food extruders provide this flexibility as they offer a wide range of operations to accommodate different recipes and an almost unlimited number of mechanical and processing configurations to produce multiple products on the same machine.
In addition, with the advent of the nutritional revolution, we now have the ability to use specific flavorings and equipment to reduce sodium levels. We know this is a trend that will continue to grow, and casual food brands are taking advantage of innovations in flavorings and equipment types to meet the needs of shoppers.
The trend toward "hot" corn curl dressings will continue to grow, as will baked products and products made from ingredients such as beans, rice and peas. High protein products are becoming more popular and this category is growing rapidly.
Innovation must come from both the raw material and equipment side. Extruding high-protein ingredients such as peas is more difficult and has more nuances than extruding corn. In addition, flavoring companies must develop lower-cost natural colorings, flavorings, etc., that are as attractive and impactful as artificial products. Consumers don't want to eat better by swapping eating experiences. Those days are over.