There is a pronounced demand for vegan gourmet offerings, with flexitarians being a key demographic, according to Andrew McIntosh, Sales Manager at Joe&Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn. Catches up with the UK-based brand, which presented two new innovative gourmet snacking options at Anuga 2019 in Cologne, last month. Tapping into the trends of texture and healthy indulgence and recognizing this market gap in “vegan gourmet gifting,” the company is focusing on vegan offerings.
“There is a huge demand for gourmet offerings in the vegan space, especially around the holidays. There is currently not that much choice when it comes to gourmet gifting that is vegan. You have some vegan chocolate maybe, but beyond that there is not much to choose from,” says McIntosh.
“In response to consumers asking for gourmet offerings in a vegan format, our products fit this market very well,” he adds. This market segment is divided among people who are completely vegan and others who are flexitarians and will buy vegan products out of preference and not because they want to avoid animal-based ingredients. The latter seem to consider it a healthier alternative and that tends to be a significant market demographic, according to McIntosh.By default, popcorn is naturally vegan if no additional ingredients are added, which already attracts many consumers, notes McIntosh. “But we are the only ones who do vegan gourmet popcorn. We have replaced the dairy elements with other ingredients to make a toffee apple with cinnamon, a coconut and cacao and a salted caramel flavor. We target customers like Whole Foods, Planet Organic and the free-from aisles.”
Tapping into texture
Texture and taste combinations are deemed significant by the brand. At Anuga, the company launched a new range that boasts an interesting taste and flavor combination. “We have launched chocolate popcorn bites and there is nothing really quite like them in the market. It’s a healthy, yet indulgent snacking option. The idea is that we wanted a great balance between texture and flavor. We dipped popcorn in a chocolate cup and that offers a nice salty popcorn and that crunch, with the combination of a rich dark chocolate component. We also have a milk chocolate product in this range,” says McIntosh.
According to an Innova Market Insights survey, 70 percent of consumers say that “texture gives food and beverages a more interesting experience” as they are looking for more fun and different products. Moreover, seven out of ten US consumers like products that mix flavors, such as sweet and salty. The market researcher is pegging Tapping into Texture” as one of its Top Ten Trends of 2020.
Brand identity and expansion plans
The company started as a family business and the products are all handmade. From innovative popcorn NPD to indulgent sauces and even a popcorn advent calendar, the brand is touching upon the appeal of having a story behind them. This is another popular characteristic that consumers look for in a brand. Echoing this, Innova Market Insights has pegged “Storytelling” as its top trend for the coming year. “We still make everything by hand,” says McIntosh.
He adds that as far as market reach goes, the company is mostly active in the UK and Nordic markets, as well as Australia but is looking toward expanding in the US market as well.
Premium offerings rise
Being “mindful about what you consume” is a pillar of the flexitarian mindset and industry is starting to take note of this demand. Beyond the health and wellness market, however, there is also a demand for gourmet products that boast luxury. For example, Australian-based dairy supplier Maxum Foods noted this past April, that gourmet butter, cheese coffee and protein are key dairy trends for 2019.
Moreover, recognizing this trend, Cargill launched CremoFLEX, its latest range of premium filling fats across Europe, designed to keep mindful snackers satisfied. The conscientious consumer of today expects innovative sensory experiences, while challenges such as clean label, nutritional profile and sustainability are increasingly influencing their purchasing decisions.
Cargill also released artisan chocolate brand Veliche Gourmet in the Netherlands early this year. Veliche Gourmet is positioned as a high-quality Belgian chocolate range with an outstanding sensorial profile that brings a full, smooth and superior taste to professional artisans in the Netherlands