UK consumers look for snacks that contain natural ingredients and colours, according to new research, with many avoiding crisps or nuts with additive colours.
A pan-European survey by food colouring manufacturer GNT found that 76% of people in the UK reach for crisps, nuts and savoury nibbles at least once a week, and nearly a third of them (27%) eat them as often as once a day. Alongside Spain, the UK is one of the countries with the highest levels of snack consumption in Europe.
Even though – or possibly because – crisps and the like are not the healthiest kind of snack to eat, the research revealed that natural ingredients are essential for more than one third of UK consumers (35%), and are actually even more important than the fat (32%) and calorie content (27%) or organic status (11%).
When it comes to ingredients, consumers are particularly alert with regard to colours. Colours are often used to give snacks red, orange, or yellow shades in order to trigger certain expectations of how a product will taste. Some 43% of UK consumers try to avoid products containing additive colours as much as possible.
The fact that natural ingredients are of high importance is also reflected in consumers’ willingness to pay more. Nearly one third would dig deeper into their pockets for salty snacks free from artificial colours (28%) or flavourings (31%). Fairtrade and local production are other aspects that nearly one in three people would be prepared to spend more on. In particular, it is women who want their crisps and nits to be natural.
However, when comparing the UK to other European countries, it appears that the British desire for ‘free-from’ products is affected by their high price sensitivity. British shoppers are generally less willing to pay more for specific product characteristics than people in other countries. For instance, 60% of Polish consumers and nearly half of German consumers would pay more for savoury snacks free from artificial colours.
“The added value of natural ingredients is something manufacturers should increasingly take into account. Consumers expect the absence of additives, even in foods that aren’t particularly associated with naturalness,” says Paul Collins, managing director of GNT UK.
“Some producers are already rethinking their recipes and switching to alternatives. Still, according to our survey, what is available on the market right now seems to be not enough, as consumers are explicitly asking for more ‘clean’ snack products.”
When it comes to colour, a solution preferred by consumers are concentrates from fruit and vegetables: nearly half of UK consumers think it should become standard within the food industry to colour products only with these natural alternatives that are a suitable fit within the ingredients declaration.