Israeli food giant the Strauss Group is hoping to target the ‘mass niche’ healthy snacking market with a new freeze-dried product, Astro.
“It all started by a very obvious ambition to create a truly healthy snack,” Astro marketing manager Shira Shaked explained. “We know that the conventional model of three meals a day is [transitioning] towards more snackable options.”
Indeed, according to market analytics firm Nielsen, the snacking business is on the rise: in 2017 alone the sector grew $3.4bn globally. Within this category, healthy on-the-go snacks are also booming with a global market value of US$1.1bn. This figure saw a compound annual growth rate of 10% between 2012 and 2016.
At the same time, Strauss wanted to bring the’ best taste’ of fresh ingredients to consumers in a shelf stable portable format. The result are ‘futuristic’ freeze-dried nutritional cubes with a shelf life of four months.
Freeze drying for health
Strauss is employing a patented freeze drying process to manufacture the bite-sized cubes. Unlike other freeze drying processes used by big brand cereal companies – which dry individual fruit pieces such as strawberries or raspberries to mix in with breakfast classics – Strauss’ technology enables a number of ingredients to be dried together.
The food tech team has created two Astro prototypes in-house. The ‘mango-pineapple-chia’ product contains 49% mango, ginger, passionfruit, and pineapple; 25% quinoa and grains; 22.5% chia and sesame seeds; and 3.5% maple syrup. The ‘strawberry-beet-almond’ variety contains 47% strawberry and beet’ 26% quinoa and grains; 23.5% almonds, sunflower seeds and oils; and 3.5% maple syrup.
A third ‘green’ prototype which originally contained spinach and kiwi is still under recipe development.
The precise percentages of ingredients aligns with the Mediterranean diet, Shaked told this publication at FoodTech IL in Tel Aviv this week. The diet is high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, cereals and grains, as well as beans, fish and unsaturated fats.
Nutritional benefits also stem from the freeze-drying process itself, she continued. “When you freeze dry something, you remove the water only – and very quickly. So it preserves the nutritional values and the taste of the fresh ingredients. It is even better than a home cooked meal, because it is just the fresh ingredients.
“We are not using concentrates. When wanted to make a product that contains everything that is good in a [fresh meal]. This is the main benefit.”
Targeting the ‘mass niche’ market
According to Strauss, 25% of consumers are interested in this kind of ‘super healthy’ snack product. “It is a ‘mass niche’ product,” explained Shaked. While in Israel, a 25% slice of the population equates to approximately 2.2m people, in other geographies this ‘mass niche’ market has the potential to reach many more people. “In Israel, we have the market for this, but it is not a massive market. So our eyes are outside into other markets.”
The company is working with advisories in the US to develop a route to market there. Once Strauss values potential market opportunities, it will strategize for market entry. This could mean investing in a factory, or in line with Strauss’ global strategy, partner with a company already on the ground. “Things are open,” Shaked revealed. “Maybe it will be a [joint venture], maybe it will be all Strauss, we don’t know yet.”
Whatever the decision, investment is required to help Astro scale up its pilot operations, she continued: “So we need to invest, or partner with someone to invest.”
Astro is one of many products being developed by Strauss Group’s innovation arm, the company’s chief innovation & growth officer, Shahar Florence, told FoodNavigator. This is being done in a way that “enables us to harness Israel’s leading technology experts and use the vast knowledge we have here for future growth”, he continued.
“We see that the business opportunity in the food-tech arena is now. Solutions that were impossible in the past are now possible due to technological changes and that enables us to provide better products worldwide.”