Latest research: Macadamias perfectly poised to meet emotional snacking needs

The Australian macadamia industry has taken a deep dive into the world of snacks, commissioning consumer research into the category in both Asian and western markets.

Examining established and emerging drivers of snack product consumption, the research unearthed innovation hotspots for macadamias in this dynamic category, and represents the latest chapter of our industry’s Innovation Initiative. The snacking research is the second body of category-specific research to be carried out as part of the Initiative. It follows on from research into the bakery category completed earlier this year, and global macro trends research of 2017 that highlighted the biggest trends currently influencing food and beverage consumption.

The findings comprise insights from consumers and food influencers in China, Japan, South Korea, USA and Australia. This revealed current snacking growth drivers in Asia and the west, as well as emerging opportunities as identified by influencers at the forefront of the food scene in each of these markets.

Media interest in these findings has been strong throughout Asia Pacific, with more than 175 pieces of coverage achieved to date across KoreaChinaTaiwan, and Australia

For more information on any of these insights, please contact your supplier, or Australian Macadamias Market Development Manager Lynne Ziehlke.

Regulating mood and rhythm: unpacking the need to snack

The research uncovered a host of drivers and ways that today’s consumers snack. Snacking can be a proactive, functional and mindful choice to manage hunger during a busy day. It can also be a mindless activity, driven by boredom or the need to feel better. It can be a compromise, or an enhancement to a moment or situation. For marketers and product innovators, this offers up a host of entry points. 

Regardless of the way in which consumers snack, they are essentially pursuing a common outcome: to regulate their mood and the rhythm of their day.

Mood management is an emerging motivation for snacking, particularly in more developed markets. It relates to emotional uplift or gratification including social sharing, de-stressing, relaxation, celebration and injection of excitement into a situation. In Asia, this often goes hand in hand with alcohol consumption. As the only motivation that delivers both functional and emotional benefits, it is fertile ground for new product development. As a premium, great tasting and nutritious ingredient, macadamias are an ideal fit for this increasingly important snacking space.  

The research confirmed the enduring and dominant needs of time management and energy management remain as relevant as ever in the snack category, driven largely by the busy and transient nature of modern life in Asian and western markets. Consumers use snacks as a time saving device when busy or travelling – a replacement for a full meal and something that can be consumed on the go. They’ll also use them to extend and relax into an enjoyable moment. In terms of energy management, snacks are used to control weight and calories, provide nutritional support and deliver sustenance and satiety. 

Macadamias enhance the benefits of nuts in snacks and cater to emotional snacking needs of consumers

Nuts in general deliver strongly on key snack requirements, with the research revealing their flexibility and wide appeal make them a compelling choice for consumers.  

Indulgence, size, health and taste emerged from the research as four vital attributes that contribute to an appealing snack product. Like all nuts, macadamias deliver on these attributes and their associated benefits. However, they also offer a unique proposition within each of these attributes, and additional value on top of the already-strong features of nuts.   

o INDULGENCE AND SIZE: As an inherently indulgent and nutrient-dense ingredient, even a small quantity of macadamias can deliver a big impact on taste, quality and premium-ness. 

o HEALTH ADDITIONS: While all nuts are known for their broad health benefits, there’s an untapped opportunity in the snack category to build greater awareness around the specific health benefits of macadamias. World-first scientific research aimed at providing evidence to support the role of macadamias in a healthy diet is now underway, laying the foundations for macadamias to take a more assertive stance in this space in the years ahead.

o TASTE: Macadamias’ versatile taste and unique texture give them broad appeal. As a good flavour carrier, they offer substantial opportunity for flavour innovation in snack products.

These unique benefits, combined with the decadent, luxurious, indulgent and premium halo of macadamias seen in previous research, makes them a prestigious addition to snacks that can cater to the powerful emotional needs increasingly driving the motivations of Asian and western consumers in this category.

Macadamias have a unique ability to resolve tensions in the snack category 

Consumers feel many snack products force them to compromise on experience or taste. However the research revealed the presence of macadamias in a snack product can eliminate any sense of compromise while their distinctive and indulgent qualities deliver particularly well to reward, excitement and mood boost – all powerful emotional snacking needs.  

When making snack purchase decisions, consumers feel the burden of balancing a series of opposing needs. They desire satiety, without being weighed down. They want high nutritional quality as well as great taste, and they’re looking for small portions that deliver a big payoff.

Macadamias in a snack can resolve all these tensions, paving the way for a more effortless purchase decision. They satisfy hunger, without being heavy, they’re nutrient dense but don’t compromise on taste, and even a small quantity of macadamias can deliver a significant payoff in terms of taste and indulgence. 

Macadamia innovation opportunities for the snack category 

Multiple innovation hotspots for macadamias were unearthed by the research, highlighting the many ways macadamias can satisfy the needs of Asian and western consumers both immediately, and in the future.  

#1: FUEL THE DAY

With full and rushed days now the norm for many consumers, they’re seeking ‘positive fuel’ in the form of nutritious snacks that help them power on, without feeling weighed down.  

What macadamias bring to this space:  

  • Nutrient density
  • Taste and texture
  • An element of decadence not normally found in nutritional snacks
  • Premium status that elevates a snack from a compromise to an indulgence
  • Oil content that ensures snacks aren’t dry

Current trend in:  

Asian and western markets, particularly among active consumers.

How this could look:  

Asian markets: macadamia energy bars, calorie-controlled foods, jelly with nuts
Western markets: macadamia raw bars, raw balls, granola, protein bars,

#2 RELAXATION

When things don’t go as planned, consumers look for snacks to manage stress, pick themselves up or distract themselves from reality. They’re seeking something rewarding and enjoyable, that won’t induce guilt afterwards.  

What macadamias bring to this space: 

  • Luxury and textural intrigue: associated with decadent and indulgent snacks
  • Elevation: they make a snack a treat
  • Permissibility: macadamias’ health credentials make a typically indulgent snack more permissible and create a sense of ‘doing something good’ while snacking

Current trend in:  

Asian and western markets, particularly among women.

How this could look:  

Asian markets: Sweet flavoured macadamias (e.g.; vanilla caramel), macadamia white hot chocolate, macadamia crunch on top of existing snacks
Western markets: gourmet nut bars, nut crunches, indulgent nut and trail mixes, macadamia crunch popcorn

#3 SOCIAL STATUS

Many consumers subscribe to the belief that ‘you are what you eat’. They’re committed to living more consciously and making positive choices, and snack choices are no exception. They gravitate to products that reflect a better, cleaner and more sustainable way of eating.  

What macadamias bring to this space: 

  • Status and sophistication: helps consumers justify the higher prices that often accompany these types of snacking products
  • Sustainable, organic and pure cues: derived from the beautiful locations in which they’re grown, particularly Australia and Hawaii
  • Taste credentials: a welcome change to these snacks which are typically lacking in taste and enjoyment

Current trend in:  

Western markets, primarily among consumers with a holistic approach to health and wellness. An emerging trend in Asian markets.

How this could look:  

Western markets: macadamia raw bars, popcorn and popcorn bars, granola, energy bars
Asian markets: macadamia powders, ramen noodle replacements, cornflake/cereal replacement, granola bars

#4 ADVENTURE 

As a non-committal, affordable and ever-changing product category, snacks offer the ideal way to bring some excitement, fun and discovery to the everyday.  

What macadamias bring to this space: 

  • Excitement: in many western markets (especially USA), macadamias remain a rare and premium ingredient
  • Flavour potential: their versatile taste makes them an excellent flavour carrier and a safe and luxurious way of introducing new tastes to market
  • Unique texture: transforms an everyday snack into something new and exciting
  • Healthier alternative: in Asian markets, traditional flavour carriers such as puffed rice and potato are thought to be unhealthy. Macadamias present a healthier option.
  • Permissibility: particularly in Asia when sweeter or unhealthier flavourings are involved

Current trend in:  

Western markets, primarily among consumers who seek excitement via flavour and travel. An emerging trend in Asian markets, particularly in China where female consumers in particular talk of wanting to ‘spice up their life’.

How this could look:  

Western markets: flavoured nuts, macadamia crunch toppings
Asian markets: flavoured nuts, exotic mixes

#5 HEALTHY AND TASTY 

Consumers want to make better choices, but not if it compromises on taste. Many are perplexed that most of the so-called healthy snacks available still taste like cardboard. 

What macadamias bring to this space: 

  • Both health and taste: a delicious ingredient that also has a health halo
  • Reduced sense of compromise: driven by their flavour as well as their premium and indulgent associations
  • Price justification: as a luxury ingredient, consumers can understand and justify the premium prices products in this space often attract

Current trend in:  

Asian markets, particularly among women seeking valid alternatives to unhealthy snacks. An emerging trend in western markets among more health-conscious consumers.

How this could look:  

Asian markets: macadamia energy bars, soft jellies, cheese with nuts, cereal bars/balls, powders or crunch to add to juices/yoghurt, yoghurt coated macadamias
Western markets: macadamia raw bars, raw balls, granola

#6 MEAL REPLACEMENT 

Consumers seeking to eat well want to be prepared when hunger hits and there is no time for a meal. Snacks offer an effective way of staying full without compromising their diet.  

What macadamias bring to this space: 

  • Nutritional value and taste: a strong value-add combination often lacking in these types of products
  • Satiety without over-eating: particularly appealing to those concerned with calorie intake

Current trend in:  

Asian markets, particularly among busy consumers working full time or trying to manage their weight.

How this could look:  

Asian markets: macadamia powder for smoothies or juices, macadamia yoghurt snacks, compressed biscuits with macadamia flavour or additions, macadamia cereal bars

#7 SHARING 

In western markets, snacking in social situations is very common. Snacking is often seen as more enjoyable with other people around, with snacks seen as a ‘social glue’ that helps make a moment more special, connected, and memorable. 

What macadamias bring to this space:

  • Luxury: macadamias are seen as premium and novel, making a snacking product that incorporates them more premium and luxurious
  • Thoughtfulness: sharing a snacking product with more premium ingredients suggests consideration and thoughtfulness

Current trend in:  

Sharing is an emerging innovation hotspot in western markets. While sharing is a common snacking practise, innovation in this space has been limited, particularly in healthy but tasty snacks.

How this could look:  

Western markets: flavoured macadamias, macadamia chips, popcorn

Bringing snack innovation to life 

The Australian macadamia industry now has several ground-breaking snack product concepts available to interested marketers and product developers globally. These are the result of the world-first Macadamia Innovation Challenge held in 2017, which saw competitors from all over Australia submit a diverse range of unique and innovative concepts for new packaged food products containing macadamias.  

Many of these were for the snack category and featured both Asian and western flavour profiles, with standout concepts including Macadamia Mind Food Bars, Macadamia Myrtle Balls, Salted Egg Yolk Macadamias, Macadamia Pure Paleo Balls and Macadamia Brittle Bites. They’re a fabulous showcase of how macadamias can enhance sweet or savoury snack products in alignment with the global trends currently driving the food choices of today’s consumers. Further details of these concepts can be obtained via your supplier, or Australian Macadamias Market Development Manager Lynne Ziehlke.  

In 2018, the Australian macadamia industry is delighted to bring back the Macadamia Innovation Challenge for a second exciting year. Entries are now open and the Challenge is expected to deliver another influx of exciting and inspiring macadamia product concepts that will inspire food manufacturers globally. This year sees the Challenge taking place on an even bigger scale, with participation invited from Japan and China, in addition to Australia. Winners will be announced at a sensational finals event in Byron Bay in April 2019. For competition details head here

The insights referred to in this story are from the research project, Snack Category and Macadamias: Western and Asian Consumer Insights conducted by independent research agency GALKAL, 2018.  

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