Multigrain snack products have increased in the past few years. They appear to be riding the change in USDA's Dietary Guidelines in 2005, which recommends three or more servings of whole grains a day.
But note all multigrain products contain whole grains. Whole grains include the fibrous bran along with the vitamin- and mineral-rich germ. Multigrain simply means it contains several types of grains. However, consumers see the word "multigrain" on food packages and believe these products are healthful.
Quaker Oats has had rice cakes in its portfolio for almost 20 years. With the trend for more grain interest, it makes sense Quaker considered how to add value to its rice cakes through the addition of a variety of grains, not just rice. Understanding the world of weight management snacks, Quaker folks surely were concerned that consumers needed snacks that were healthy and tasted really good.
We at the Understanding and Insight Group took a second look at this unassuming product because of the very clever product design. We feel Quaker created more than just a snack cake. These mini snack cakes give the same taste and mouthfeel experience of a popular and familiar (and competitive) fudge stripe shortbread cookie. Whether intentional or not, Quaker created a cookie experience in a 90-calorie rice cake snack. Now, that got our attention. And this multigrain snack does contain whole grains.
Understanding the marketplace
Sales of healthy snack foods in the U.S. grew from $13.7 billion in 2002 to $14.7 billion in 2004, an increase of nearly 7 percent, according to Mintel's 2005 Healthy Snacking report. Consumers eat a lot of snacks: 75 percent of people snack at least once a day, according to the American Dietetic Assn. (2000), and these snacks supply 23-25 percent of the average consumer's total daily calorie intake. So the healthfulness of the snack has become important.
Healthy snacks have gained shelf space in grocery stores and convenience stores. They are an expected product in a grocery aisle, not just a product that can only be purchased at a health food store.
In the healthy snack category there are four major competitors: Kraft, General Mills, Kellogg and PepsiCo. Each has a broad product portfolio that covers multiple food categories. These companies account for nearly half (48 percent) of all healthy snack sales.
The most popular foods eaten as healthy snacks are fresh fruit, raw vegetables and nuts/dried fruit/ trail mix. All of these have whole food healthfulness in common. This makes it difficult for the more processed snacks to earn a healthy halo.
When choosing healthy snacks, consumers look for a health-related benefit, which many times reflects lowered fat, all natural, whole grains, portion control, high fiber or moderation in sodium. These benefits are the most recent variation on what "healthy" means.
One of the perceived gaps for healthy snacks is that they do not always taste as good as regular snacks. This continues to be a leverageable opportunity for snack food manufacturers. For a food to be craveable, it must not only have a great flavor but also a great texture. A complex flavor (multiple tastes) and a simple or moderately complex texture drives craveablity, according to our own Crave It! studies. Mini Delights Chocolatey Drizzle understands this and delivers a snacking experience that rivals a chocolate shortbread cookie.
Key: Creating a product to fill a new space requires knowing the attributes the consumer will use as a frame of reference. When this knowledge is used along with key trends in the snacking market, manufacturers stand a better chance of creating a product that consumers will understand and therefore may be motivated to purchase.
Insights: Quaker Mini Delights are aimed at women who are managing their weight. The Quaker brand promises healthiness. The location (next to rice cakes) promises this is helping you manage your weight. Quaker was able to leverage this brand heritage along with the gap of good tasting healthy snacks to create Mini Delights.
Our Crave It! and Healthy You! Insights find flavor, texture, baked and healthy ingredients are the key factors that suggest healthfulness in snacks. For cookies, texture complexity (difference between the chocolate and the base), flavor and bite size along with brand can impact craveability.
Quaker has merged healthy snacks and cookies to create a product with textural complexity, flavor impact that is baked, a healthy halo from a well-known brand and a flavor echo from another popular brand.
Key trends in the snacking area are convenience, flavors and healthfulness.
Convenience: On-the-go packaging is critical to fit consumers' busy lives and to help them deal with a need for a snack when they are away from their preferred food choices.
Flavors: Rice snacks have focused periodically over the years on either a few lead flavors -- e.g., buttery, cheese, original/plain -- or more trendy flavors, such as caramel corn and jalapeno cheddar. Having multigrains to deliver a more rounded-out flavor than the rice cake base allows the form to deliver more taste experiences. Creating analogs of cravable snacks enables consumers to have a great tasting snack and get their cravings satisfied for the moment.
Healthfulness: An overall industry focus on trying to reduce obesity combined with consumer behavior for snacking equates to an intense industry desire to provide snacks that are healthier. This includes the type and amount of fat, composition of all of the carbohydrates and looking at both the calorie and sodium levels. Many consumers are also seeking the "cleanest" ingredient statements they can find.