Beverage manufacturers shift focus with changes in consumption habits

Enjoy without regret – drinkable snacks as a trendy alternative to chocolate and muesli bars

In Brazil, dairy company Latco has two drinkable snacks on the market which balance healthy, varied eating with an indulgent treat: ChocoLatco+ is the name of a new UHT chocolate milk that is available in ‘Chocolate with Coconut’ and ‘Chocolate & Tropical Strawberry with Coconut’ varieties.

They are certainly not just sweet or salty.

The variety of snacks available has increased considerably in the past few years. And not just as far as flavours are concerned, but also in terms of quality and texture. Many people are watching what they eat, and even when selecting snacks they do their best to make sure the things they choose still taste good and will not harm their health, or their figure. Food manufacturers are responding by bringing out modern snacks that accommodate both of these concerns. One trend that has taken root is that these days snacks can also be drunk, thus giving consumers an extra portion of fluid.

Snacking is widely regarded as a weakness. People who snack are too undisciplined to wait for their next meal. And that is not all: classic snacks such as chocolate bars, sweets, chips and salted nuts are very high in calories, and on top of that they are more or less ‘empty’ as far as healthy nutrients are concerned. So anyone who goes ahead and eats them anyway often does so with a guilty conscience. With the changing eating habits of many consumers, however, the quality of some snacks, and hence also their reputation, has now improved significantly.

Modern living has led to the traditional patterns of everyday life, with three main meals, becoming increasingly rare; instead, people eat whenever they can find the time. And this eating may be in the form of several smaller portions rather than three big meals. No matter what time of the day or night, there are now plenty of snacking treats on offer for between meals and on the move. And these snacks are healthy, too: for instance, people think of a portion of fruit or vegetables, a plain yoghurt, a veggie sandwich or a muesli drink as a snack.

Healthy snacks for people on the move
Norman Gierow, Head of Market Segment Management at SIG Combibloc, confirms that more and more often, beverages are taking on the character of healthy snacks: “With a growing range of healthy alternatives available to consumers, snack meals have lost their negative character. For many consumers, snacks are therefore no longer just an occasional treat, but an established part of the everyday diet. A glance at the current product range of our international customers shows that beverages are increasingly being positioned as snacks, so they are in many respects fitting in with the current consumption trends. These include, for instance, the focus on food that is healthier, as natural as possible and yet reasonably priced, and also suitable for on-the-move eaters. Other in-topics are foods with added benefits such as extra vitamins or fibre, the revival of traditional recipes, and the effort to eat more fruit and vegetables and take in enough fluid”.

In Saudi Arabia, Gulf Union has brought out a range of juice beverages containing pieces of fruit, in Peach, Pineapple, Orange and Mango flavours under the new brand name ‘Original plus’. The beverages are sold in combiblocMini 200 ml.

Liquid snacks conveniently packaged
One manufacturer that presents and positions snacks in liquid form is Gulf Union from Saudi Arabia. The company has brought out a range of juice drinks in Orange, Peach, Pineapple and Mango varieties which have been turned into snacks in a modern, healthy way through the addition of pieces of real fruit. The ‘Original plus’ beverages, as the product range is called, are positioned under the tagline ‘Back to nature’, and have been well-received by consumers. The natural character of the products is highlighted by the real fruit pieces. At Gulfood in Dubai, one of the world’s biggest food and drink trade shows, Gulf Union got the industry audience buzzing with its innovative product range.

“In Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the subjects of health and naturalness play an important role when choosing foods”, says Brian Hinchliffe, Head of Marketing and Business Development for Africa and the Middle East at SIG Combibloc Obeikan. This is primarily because obesity is becoming a serious problem in the region. In the Middle East this is often the result of an unhealthy lifestyle and eating a high-calorie diet, but the calories are also consumed in beverages, according to Hinchliffe. The resulting overweight leads in many cases to cardiovascular diseases – now the region’s leading cause of death. Diabetes, which develops as a result of overweight and obesity, is also a massive problem. “People have been warned, and they are becoming more discerning in their choice of the foods and beverages they consume. The industry is responding to this with innovative product concepts that balance enjoyment and eating wisely. Beverages such as those from Gulf Union, with extra portions of real fruit pieces, are a good example of this”.

drinksplus: Drinks and more
The products are filled aseptically in carton packs using the drinksplus technology from SIG Combibloc. Using this technology, beverages containing up to ten per cent natural particulates can be processed using SIG Combibloc’s standard filling machines for liquid dairy products and non-carbonated soft drinks. Individual bits in the products can be up to six millimetres in length and width. The standard filling machines are simply fitted with a drinksplus upgrade kit. The easy-to-install ‘drinksplus kit’ includes valves, valve stems and filling nozzles which are tailor-made to ensure an ideal product flow when filling innovative beverages containing particulates. In addition to products containing pieces of fruit and vegetables or coconut flakes, the technology now also allows beverages containing a wide range of grains or nuts to be aseptically filled in carton packs.

Thanks to the perceptible extras, the consistency of the products is quite different from that of a classic beverage: they are experienced as creamier, and richer. This gives the beverages the character of a snack, making them ideal as a between-meal treat that can also be conveniently drunk on the go. The beverages from Gulf Union are sold in the carton pack combiblocMini 200 ml from SIG Combibloc – a handy carton size that even fits in a handbag.

In Brazil too, innovative drinkable snacks are catering to the current consumer trend for a healthy, varied diet that combines eating and drinking with enjoyment. Modern beverages containing perceptible, natural particulates bring together both aspects. An example of this is two new drinks from Brazilian dairy company Latco. ChocoLatco+ is the name of a new UHT chocolate milk that is available in ‘Chocolate with Coconut’ and ‘Chocolate & Tropical Strawberry with Coconut’ varieties. The premium UHT products give consumers a totally new drinking sensation, because the flakes of real coconut provide a perceptible added value.

Luciana Galvão, Head of Marketing at SIG Combibloc South America: “Alongside chocolate, coffee is one of the top products that people consume in breaks between meals. So what could be better than combining the coffee break and the snack break? Global coffee specialist Melitta has taken the lead here. Following the successful launch of the first ready-to-drink coffee milk drink, ‘Wake’, in our combifitSmall 250 ml carton pack, further varieties have been added to the range. There are now five different ‘Wake’ coffee drinks on the Brazilian market, packaged as the perfect snack for a little break, that’s also a delicious pick-me-up”. The ‘Wake’ products come in Toffee, Mocca and Chocoberry (white chocolate and strawberry) varieties, as well as Moccanut and French Vanilla.

When it comes to ways in which manufacturers can position beverages as liquid snacks and thus expand their portfolio by adding high-margin products, the possibilities are endless. Creating innovative product concepts quickly and efficiently does not necessarily mean having to invest in completely new filling machines. Norman Gierow, as a global market expert at SIG Combibloc, says: “Business planning security calls for flexibility. In developing the filling machine systems of SIG Combibloc, we’ve had that in mind right from the beginning, and today we can justifiably say that with our carton packs and filling machines we’ve put together a package of flexible options that is the only one of its kind in the world. In addition to a multitude of different packaging solutions, we also offer an unrivalled level of format, volume and product flexibility that can be implemented unbeatably fast and enables beverage manufacturers to keep production extremely flexible and cost-effective. As well as liquid products, highly viscous products can also be optimally filled in carton packs, using our standard filling machines for beverages. We believe snack drinks are set to take off world-wide in the next few years, and we’ll be seeing and trying out lots of innovative product concepts”.

• SIG Combibloc is one of the world’s leading system suppliers of carton packaging and filling machines for beverages and food. In 2013 the company achieved a turnover of 1,680 million Euro with around 5,100 employees in 40 countries. SIG Combibloc is part of the New Zealand based Rank Group.