The snack sector is becoming increasingly diverse. From coconut chips in China to coffee-flavoured popcorn in Indonesia, new product innovations are being launched regularly and have demonstrated that consumers across Asia are keen to experiment with new flavours and novel taste combinations.
With a predicted compound annual growth rate of 7.2 percent over the next four years, the Asian snacks sector is expected to grow faster than no other, making it a hotbed for innovation and opportunity, according to a Global Industry Analysts report. Overall, there are three key seasoning trends that have emerged in the Asian snacks market and which are not only driving product innovation, but are also influencing the choice of seasoning equipment.
What are some key trends that we can observe of Asia’s snacks industry at the moment?
Trend 1: Localisation
Asia is a vast and diverse market and snack manufacturers that want to achieve success across the region need to cater to a very wide range of palates, each one with their own ethnic flavour preference. Localisation therefore remains a popular strategy amongst snack manufacturers trying to appeal to Asian palates and their preference for familiar tastes.
As a result, local snack specialities, like puffed corn infused with regional flavours such as Balado—an Indonesian chilli sauce, are on the rise across the region, found a Canadean report on consumer and market insights.
Trend 2: Experimentation
At the same time, increased exposure to foreign media and a high level of migration and more frequent travel mean that consumers have become more curious and adventurous when it comes to snacking and are more willing than ever to experiment with foods from other cultures along with their own traditional cuisines.
According to the same Canadean report, this has led to a rise in hybrid products with unusual flavour combinations, such as pizza potato chips with bulgogi flavour—a popular Korean meat dish—or pistachios in lime and chilli.
Trend 3: Food Minus
But it is not just novel flavour combinations that are driving product development. The global health and wellness trend has not stopped at Asia.
Canadean conducted a research on consumer and market insights for savoury snacks in Hong Kong this year, and found that snacks that include ingredients generally perceived as unhealthy are increasingly replaced with healthier products that are still expected to deliver the same taste experience, but minus the salt, sugar or fat.
The Art Of Seasoning
Seasoning plays a key role in delivering the taste experiences consumers seek. Whether it is a sprinkle of salt or complex flavour blends, taste sells snacks and the right seasoning equipment can help manufacturers gain a competitive edge when experimenting with new flavours or product formulations.
When it comes to selecting a new seasoning system, it is important to look for equipment that can run a variety of flavours on the same line, deliver the highest seasoning accuracy and reduce material waste without affecting overall product quality.
Variety will no doubt remain pivotal in consumers’ purchasing decisions for snacks and ongoing product innovation is key when trying to maintain the loyalty and interest of Asia’s increasingly adventurous snackers. To diversify their product portfolio at minimum cost, food manufacturers need seasoning equipment that can deliver the highest level of flexibility.
For example, a manufacturer who decides to meet current trends by adding a new flavour to their product range will require a system that allows products and flavours to be changed over quickly, where outputs can be adjusted according to demand and oil spray levels regulated in an instant.
When it comes to seasoning equipment, snack manufacturers have the choice between mainline (MLS) and on-machine seasoning (OMS) methods of application. OMS systems often provide greater production flexibility from a control perspective; several flavours can be produced at once for multipack or fulfilling direct sales needs, as opposed to bulk warehousing.
The freedom to adapt and exercise precise recipe control are also important factors in ensuring flexible and efficient operating practices. The latest OMS solutions include independent scarf feeders and separate tumble drums to accommodate alternative product varieties alongside traditional lines, for example for low salt options.
In addition, many systems feature quick release, lightweight polymer drums in different sizes and are capable of software-driven changes, so no mechanical adjustments for different products are required, enabling rapid product changeovers.
Seasoning systems that offer simplicity in design and provide ease of access to all moving parts further help speed up product changeovers, ensuring that the equipment is back up and running as quickly as possible. Cleaning and maintenance on OMS systems is typically easier. Seasoning drums on these types of systems can often be removed without the need for tools, allowing for quick flavour changes and more continuous production runs.
The latest seasoning technology also offers integrated cleaning aid systems that can support the cleaning process by spraying hot water and detergent throughout the machine. Controlled by a programmable logic controller (PLC), they can act as a secondary means of cleaning the conveyor and spray heads, significantly speeding up the changeover process. As a result, processes can be tailored to each of the products for higher product application flexibility and reduced downtime.
Seasoning plays a key role in delivering the
taste experiences consumers seek,
be it salt or complex flavours.
When it comes to creating snacks with consumer appeal, maintaining overall quality is key, found a similar Canadean consumer research study conducted on savoury snacks in China in 2015. Whether it is a new taste sensation or low salt formulation, quality is a primary motivator for snack consumers as they generally perceive these snacks to offer a better taste experience.
Seasoning accuracy plays a key role when developing quality snacks. Firstly, from the consumers’ perspective, they want a consistently flavoured product that looks appealing and tastes great. And with the demand for more complex and stronger flavoured snacks increasing, it has become more important than ever for manufacturers to select seasoning systems that ensure the seasoning is applied appropriately and consistently.
Secondly, from the manufacturer’s perspective; they need to ensure that only the right amount of seasoning is applied to limit waste and meet the required nutritional labelling target—in particular when they’re intending to profile their product as low in sodium.
There are a number of innovative technologies that allow manufacturers to better control the application process for greater accuracy. OMS systems that feature a responsive variable mass seasoning system with dynamic vibratory weigher are able to directly control the powder flow into the drum. This enables an accurate, proportional amount of seasoning to be evenly applied to the product for improved coverage and flavour dispersion.
In general, snack manufacturers should look for seasoning technology that is able to provide flavour application with standard deviation below 0.35 on a 6 percent seasoning application rate and a standard deviation below 0.11 on a 1.5 percent salt application rate. That way, they will be able to apply only as much as they need for taste, accuracy and consistency, while ensuring their label declaration is kept to the minimum, instead of declaring the worst case scenario.
With increasing pressure on manufacturers’ bottom lines, the need to enhance efficiencies throughout production has become an even greater focus in recent years. Applying an incorrect level of seasoning does not only affect consumer loyalty and label declarations, but can also have a significant impact on raw materials costs, either in the form of seasoning wastage or rejected products.
In fact, in most snack lines seasoning is often more expensive than the actual base product, so reducing waste can make a huge difference to overall profitability. For example, reducing the amount of giveaway through overseasoning by only one percent is able to reduce the cost per bag by up to 10 percent.
Minimising waste, either from breakages, fall off, or inappropriately seasoned products, should therefore be a key consideration when planning seasoning equipment purchases. For example, a system that minimises drops and ensures a gentle tumble whilst seasoning is applied, rather than lifting and dropping the product, can significantly reduce product breakages.
As the drum rotates, the snacks will be drawn up to the top of the bed by the drum where they will tumble diagonally down the face of the bed according to the angle of the drum. This action is repeated such that the snacks rotate through the bed many times during the dwell time in the drum. The drum should also be equipped with multiple asymmetrical pressed-in crevice-less flights and a variable speed drive, allowing a gentle but efficient tumbling action to reduce the risk of breakage of fragile products.
Flavour continues to be the main differentiator when it comes to snacks and seasoning systems play a key role in delivering the unique taste experiences consumers seek. The latest OMS technology offers snack manufacturers the flexibility, simplicity, accuracy and efficiency they need to tackle new seasoning trends head on, while ensuring they maintain a profitable operation.