Manufacturers Have Opportunities to Innovate in Cheese-Flavored Snacks

Cheesy snacks outpaced the overall savory snack category in new product launches.

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BELOIT, Wis. — Consumers across the world associate cheese flavors with indulgence, comfort and freshness with significant variation in different regions, according to new research from Kerry, the world’s leading taste and nutrition company.

Understanding these emotions, in combination with local taste preferences, presents a significant opportunity for snack producers to innovate and meet consumers’ growing demand for new flavors and formats.

Kerry surveyed 8,790 consumers across 16 countries in North America, Europe, Latin America, the Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa to learn more about their snacking behaviors as they relate to cheese-flavored savory snacks, while also studying new-product launch activity.

It was found that consumers have a deeply positive perception of cheese flavors in savory snacks, with 62% stating that cheese flavors make savory snacks more exciting — indicating strong potential for brands to connect with them emotionally. Cheese-flavored snacks also outpaced the overall savory snack category in new product launches, demonstrating potential for innovation.

Consumer preferences vary globally

While 77% of consumers globally said taste is the number one reason they love cheese, preferences vary across different markets and geographies. Indulgence is a big driver in Europe, while consumers in the US, UK and South Africa turn to cheese for comfort. In Latin American countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia and Honduras, consumers associate cheese with freshness. 

Cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan are popular among respondents in North America and Europe, while dairy flavors such as milk and cream play a central role in savory snack flavors in Asian countries — particularly China, Indonesia and Thailand. Kerry’s proprietary sensory research also showcased how taste perceptions vary vastly around the world, with panelists in Indonesia describing cheese-flavored snacks as “buttery and mild,” compared to panelists in the UK who find them “strong and salty.”

The research also explored top flavors based on snack type, with cheddar reigning supreme around the world — and also the most appealing choice in potato chips, popcorn and cheese puffs. 

Opportunity for innovation

Commenting on the research, Soumya Nair, Global Consumer Research and Insights Director, said: “Cheese is a truly cultural experience, shaped by different geographies, generations of rich culinary history, local ingredients and traditions. Our research indicates that there is an opportunity to innovate in this space and bring new flavors to life across a variety of savory snacks. But cheese-flavored snacks also bring indulgence and a sense of adventure to consumers. Snack producers can be very creative in blending the traditional with the new.

“Although many consumers love classic, single-cheese flavors in savory snacks, there is plenty of scope for mixing things up. A significant percentage — 50% — tell us that creative additions such as herbs, spices and chili are variants they look for.”

“We are the global leader in dairy taste and bring a 50-year dairy heritage in food production and science in creating global, local and regional-specific cheese taste and dairy solutions. Our marketing, consumer, sensory and regulatory teams work alongside our flavorists and application experts to deliver our portfolio of market-leading dairy and dairy-free taste solutions,” Nair added. 

Full details of the research findings across 16 countries are contained in a new eBook aimed at helping food producers leverage these insights to create and market new products. The eBook can be downloaded here.

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