With a shift towards eating that’s fast-paced, value for money and as sociable as possible – the demand for snacks is at an all-time high. No longer a compromise to a main meal, the future of snacking is innovative, inspired and indulgent! Read on to discover what is driving the demand for snacks, and what it means for the restaurant trade.
The Not-So Guilty Pleasure of Snacking
In decades gone by snacking has been relatively demonised, considered to be a contributor to excess calories between meals – pushing us over our daily allowance and into the red zone for weight gain. But recent times have seen a shift away from the traditional three meals per day, with more and more of us utilising the convenience and speed of lighter meals and snacks to gain our nourishment – meet generation graze!
Trouble is, snacks are historically not the healthiest foods – we’re talking pork scratchings, crisps and confectionary. Whilst these have not usually had a place in the restaurant trade, they’ve created a reputation for convenience foods and steered people towards ‘proper meals’ and healthier choices – and away from snacks.
More recently, the demand for healthy snacks has seen a surge in restaurant offerings of food which is both delicious and nutritious. “People are becoming far more health conscious with the rise of movements like veganism driving healthier eating decisions when it comes to snacking,” said Meera Vedhara, owner of Karma Kitchen, a plant-based Indian restaurant in Newcastle, England. Convenience no longer has to come at a cost to your health. Instead, the core principles of healthy eating that underpin our preference for fresh, natural and minimally processed meals is also rubbing off on our snacking habits. This is reflected in a more general sweep towards healthier food; when asked how their snacking has changed in the last 2 years 40% consumers responded that they were snacking on healthier foods, according to the Technomic restaurant report.
Snack Menus: The Modern Meal
As with all elements of the food industry, restaurant trends are governed and guided by changes in consumer demand. For snacks, the hustle and bustle of a busy modern lifestyle pairs them up favourably with consumers who seek speed, ease and value from their food. “It is not about gluttony, rather it is about adapting our eating schedules to our busy lives,” states the Waitrose Food & Drink Report.
One particular trend for Millennials is the demand for food which accommodates the social side of eating out. Inspired by lands afar and their sharing mentality, snacks offer up a more communal and accessible way of eating for groups of friends. This has seen the introduction of grazing snacks, sharing plates, small plates and scaled-down entrees on restaurant menus. When it comes to eating out, snacking is the sociable choice.
The rise in smaller plates and lighter meals works in synergy with the equally desired concepts of street food and grab-and-go eating. If speedy service and fast turnaround aren’t quick enough, taking your snack away with you could be the solution you need. In fact, a survey by Technomic found that portability is an important factor for 57% consumers when choosing a snack.
Delicious meets Nutritious
Restaurant snackers also want to know the healthful benefits of their food; “The expectations are now greater, conscious consumers want food that adds to their health. They will seek out a snack that works with their values and lifestyle choices,” says Pauline Cox, founder of Sow & Arrow restaurant in Clevedon, England. With the average consumer more educated than ever in nutrition, they expect next level snacking with innovative health-boosting products. There is a demand for food high in protein, rich in flavour and as close to nature as possible. What’s more, looking at the increasing number of fermented food and drink products, gut-health seems to be gaining popularity every day.
Pauline (Sow & Arrow) provided insight into some of the latest snacking trends, “There has been a real trend towards lower sugar foods and this is reflected in the popularity of snacks such as grass-fed biltong, seaweed crisps, kale crisps and very dark chocolate.” It seems potato crisps are the choice for bars and shops, the restaurateur’s crisps are instead made using lentils, plantain or quinoa – not the humble potato! Salty and processed beef jerky is overshadowed by finer quality grass-fed biltong – locally sourced, minimally processed and handcrafted of course – and gone are breadsticks and dough balls, in their place is aged mozzarella wrapped in aged prosciutto or tasty tapas.
The demand for restaurant snacks is undeniably surfacing. But to bring snacks up to restaurant standard there has had to be a facelift of sorts, a snack upgrade if you like. Consumers still desire attention to detail and the full dining experience when snacking in restaurants – they are expectant to try new things and expand their taste horizons.
Snack business Nutmad, offering activated nuts, was started with the idea to create a snack which is healthy and delicious, proving that both taste and nutrition can coexist and work in synergy. Nutmad utilise an age-old traditional practice, which makes the nuts easier to digest and much tastier. “Activated” means that the nuts have been soaked in water to neutralize the enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid they contain. These compounds bind to nutrients such as iron, zinc, manganese, calcium etc., which means they stop the body from absorbing the minerals fully, and they can also put a strain on our digestive system. After soaking the nuts are dehydrated at low temperatures to preserve their nutrients. As a result, they improve their taste and are gentler on the stomach compared with raw nuts. This is a prime example of the type of upgraded snack you can expect to see in restaurants, which will provide a healthful and convenient food to accompany cocktails, soft drinks or long drinks – not to mention ticking boxes such as high protein, vegan-friendly and innovative.
Snacks: The Fourth Meal
With influence from the wider world of international cuisine and a push towards convenience, speed and sociable eating – there’s definitely a seat at the table for snacks in restaurants. What’s more, incorporating snacks into a menu opens restaurant doors to those who would otherwise be too pressed for time, money or effort to sit down to a traditional meal. Adapting to meet the demands of generation graze should prove to be a smart solution for the restaurant trade.