More peas please: Pea-based snacks hit healthy snack spot

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

Pea-based snacks are gaining traction in Europe as consumers look for alternative, better-for-you snacks, according to market research company Mintel.

“As the alternative snacking category continues to develop, brands can capitalise on consumer demand for both 'plants' and 'protein', with room to innovate in outside-the-box formats and ingredients," ​said global food and drink analyst Julia Buech.

“Emerging as a promising base ingredient in the alternative snacks segment, peas can lend flavour, nutrition, and a point of difference to snack mixes, while

© Mintel

also showing strong potential to star as flavoursome snacks in their own right.”

However, pea protein is known for having bitter after notes. Since people tend to snack for pleasure over nutrition, pea-based snacks will have to deliver on the flavour front in the same way mainstream snacks do, Buech noted.

Pea snack manufacturers are learning to break away from the standard wasabi flavour – although this traditional Japanese flavour still dominates, accounting for a fifth of pea-based snacks launched in Europe between 2015 and 2017.

She drew attention to some product launches that stand out. Some 'baked not fried' pea snacks, such as Yushoi’s sweet chili and lemon baked pea snack or Marks & Spencer’s green chilli, lime and coriander pea snaps imitate the natural shape of pea pods which help leverage the natural and healthy image.

In the increasingly varied alternative proteins space, European consumers are increasingly interested in seeing pea. In a Mintel survey, which questioned 13% of German, 14% of Spanish and Polish, and 24% of Italian consumers chose pea as their preferred type of alternative protein.

© Mintel

Manufacturers have been listening to these demands, making pea the main ingredient.

“Predominantly occupying a back-label existence, peas are only now starting to take on more of a leading role, featuring as central ingredients in a number of new launches,” ​added Buech.

According to data from the market research company, 54% of pea-based snacks launched in Europe from November 2016 to October 2017 drew attention to their protein content compared to just 5% from 2013 to 2014.

They are also being used in other snack products, such as bars and meal replacements.

 “In Germany, start-up PaPicante has introduced an interesting range of ethnic-flavoured savoury snack bars. Available in Mediterranean, American and Asian style variants, the clean label bars are based on pea protein, rice flour, quinoa and dried vegetables, and are positioned as small, satisfying meals.”

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