IRELAND – Kerry Taste & Nutrition, a leader in global food ingredients, has reported that its consumer demand in the cheese snack category is shifting towards craft and artisan products that are closely linked to real cheese and simple ingredients.

The company said that larger and more established brands are losing market share and shelf space to smaller, more artisanal brands.

Consumers perceive these brands to be delivering more authentic, premium and innovative snacks, and as a result, Kerry offers an end-to-end solution for manufacturers to remain competitive in European markets.

Addressing this shift in consumer demand is an opportunity, but also a challenge, for snack manufacturers, according to the company.

Volatility in the cheese market is generating new layers of complexity in managing prices and sourcing named and provincial cheeses.

In addition, creating a natural snack that captures the organoleptic properties of real cheese in an application, and at scale, can be an obstacle.

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Jeremy Pugh, Director – Savoury Snack End-Use-Market at Kerry Taste & Nutrition, said: “Consumers look to dairy snacks for comfort, emotional warmth and authenticity.

They will have more perceived health benefits compared to sweeter snacks but need to be delivered in a convenient format.

The research highlighted that consumers want more adult dairy snacks (more sophisticated flavor profiles, formats and branding) that they can easily consume on-the-go, to fit into their busy lifestyles.”

“Kerry research shows that 64 percent of consumers are looking to ignite their love of snacks through new taste experiences.

As the world becomes smaller and consumers have been introduced to new flavors and taste profiles, they often expect a taste of the world at home.

They want snacks that deliver strong, bold flavors and new and experiential textures,” Pugh noted.

Kerry relies on its dairy experts to source only the highest quality and most cost-effective ingredients through its vertically integrated supply chain.

Its cheese powder is produced through a simple and completely transparent process – take real cheese, add water and emulsifying salt, then melt and dry – and can be used across a variety of applications.

“I also believe there is a bigger desire from consumers to be informed about what they are putting into their bodies and how their favorite snacks are made.

A desire to eat ‘clean’ and simple foods, as well as a mistrust of big business is driving consumers to buy from smaller producers with stories to tell about their products.

With this in mind, artisan brands are better positioned to reassure today’s consumers.”

According to the company, it added that the end product retains all of the functionality and labeling specifications of the original cheese used.

The taste and textural characteristics of real cheese are also maintained, as backed by testing with sensory experts trained in dairy flavors.

“Cheese snacks have one of the highest gaps in the desire for authenticity vs. current perceptions of the category.

Only 29 percent of consumers stated they were satisfied that their last crisp snack occasion met their needs (Kerry, Consumer First, 2017).

Consumers have such a passion for cheese; but believe they only get an imitation of cheese in their cheesy snacks, not the real deal that they love and adore.

This is a huge opportunity for the market to tap into,” said Grace Keenan, Marketing Manager for Savoury End-Use-Market.

“Consumers are passionate about cheese, whatever the application – and at Kerry, we agree that it’s one of the fermented arts,” says Pugh.

“With over 40 years of dairy heritage and the know-how of our sensory, applications and flavor teams, we are experts in getting the best from cheese.

To meet changing consumer demand, we can help customers deliver the authentic cheese experience across a range of great-tasting, nutritious snacks at scale,” he added.