Feature: Snacks

BY LAURA GELDER

The need to snack is here to stay but the industry is scrambling to find new and inventive ways to make it healthy. Laura Gelder identifies the trends and finds a new generation of savoury snack heroes

The oft-quoted mantra of three square meals a day is still adhered to by most of the industrialised world, but in-between has snuck the snack. Whether it’s a traditional biscuit with your cup of tea or a health conscious energy ball before a gym session, the snack it seems is here to stay.

But with obesity almost the norm in the west and diabetes levels stretching towards epidemic proportions, the onus is on every food provider to offer healthy snacks and treats and to keep the selection interesting.

Earlier this year UK low-cost carrier easyjet listed its most popular buy-on-board items and they weren’t exactly healthy. Sales of paprika Pringles soared 30% after a video of the then British PM David Cameron eating them went viral.

But look closer at the airline’s bistro menu and some less obvious savoury snacks are on sale. Hot lunch snacks include couscous and lentil and Thai-style noodle pots from health-conscious brand The Food Doctor. And the mezze snack box from Karyatis on sale is stuffed with olives, hummus and crackers.

And while British Airways’ decision to scrap complimentary food service on short haul routes wasn’t popular with all,
the airline will hovever be the first to serve M&S sandwiches fortified with vitamin D and added fibre. The rest of the snack selection includes an oriental snack mix combining edamame beans sesame-coated cashews, roasted corn and brown rice with a soy and five spice seasoning.

Fruit and veg

Big names like Kettle and Tyrells now offer vegetable crisps* using beetroot, parsnip and sweet potato which are already a firm favourite with many but being fried in oil they aren’t strictly healthy.

Emily Crisps (emilyfruitcrisps.co.uk) still use a little oil but the incredible crunch on its range of fruit, and now vegetable, crisps comes from a unique process. The fruit and vegetable pieces are cooked in non-hydrogenated vegetable oil in a vacuum, at an optimum temperature that results in minimum fat absorption and a non-greasy and crisp-like finish. To add to its apple, banana and pineapple crisps Emily now offers a range of real vegetable crisps in spring greens (French beans, sugar snap peas and black edamame and mixed root (sweet potato, carrot and beetroot). Low in calories and full of nutrients, fibre, protein and vitamins, each pack is one of your five-a-day.

Burt’s (burtschips.com) is famous for its not-so-healthy but delicious potato crisps, but has ventured into the healthy snack segment for the first time with the release of its line of crunchy lentil waves, made using lentil flour, potato starch and sunflower oil. The 20g packs are less than 99 calories each and come in lightly salted, sour cream and chive and Thai sweet chili flavours.

For a different kind of crisp Hippeas (hippeas.com) is specialising in a chickpea-based snack which resembles a Wotsit (if you’re British) or a Cheeto (for everyone else). It’s a crunchy puff which is organic, high in fibre, vegan and under 100 calories per bag, coming in four flavours: pepper power, in herbs we trust, far out fajita and sweet and smokin’.

Trendy ingredients

More than a fad, seaweed is a trend gathering in strength and manifesting itself in many ways – from a seasoning to a type of pasta. Welsh company Selwyn’s (selwynsseaweed.com) has been harvesting seaweed for over 50 years, initially for use in the traditional Welsh dish laverbread. Now, Ashley Jones is continuing the tradition started by his grandfather with a new product – Selwyn’s Crispy Seaweed Snacks.

Having travelled to the Far East, Jones discovered the popularity of seaweed as a snack and decided his company was well-placed to make them in Britain. In 2014, he sourced raw Nori seaweed from the Far East and brought it back to Wales to triple-roast and flavour. Selwyn’s is now working on a project with Swansea University and The Tidal Lagoon in his native Swansea Bay to start farming its own organic seaweed.

The fine sheets of mineral and vitamin-rich dried seaweed are seasoned in coconut and chili, honey and sesame and sea salt and vinegar flavours and are a very modest 12 calories a pack.

Another ubiquitous bar snack in Japan, the humble edamame bean is actually a soya beans and boasts antioxidant properties as well as being full of fibre, protein and free from gluten. Pre-cooked grain specialists Artisan Grains (artisangrains.co.uk) has a new roasted, spiced edamame snack in sweet chilli and salt and pepper flavours.

Move over popcorn, plain old corn is having its moment. Popular in the ethnic aisles of your local supermarkets, it’s a moreish, filling and crunchy natural snack and founder of Love Corn, Jamie McCloskey, saw an opportunity to launch a brand. Love Corn’s brightly-packaged snacks come in smoky BBQ, habanero, sharp cheddar and sea salt and cracked pepper.

Leading popcorn brand Propercorn is getting in on the act too, introducing Crunch Corn, its first venture outside of traditional popcorn. The half-popped sibling of its signature snack are gluten-free, suitable for vegans and seasoned using natural ingredients. It is being pitched as an alternative to nuts. Flavours include rock salt, salt and pepper, sweet and smokey chilli, and salt and vinegar.

Another nut stand-in, seeds are being spiced up by Munchy Seeds. This brand has already broken into UK supermarkets and has a whole range of snacks mixing several different seed varieties like linseed and rapeseed, for a range of textures. The chilli bites variety combines spiced toasted sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and sweet apricot kernels with a gentle kick of chilli.

At Kinomi (Kinominuts.com) nuts themselves have been given a makeover with organic roasted nuts paired with Japanese flavours to create Pikapika Pecans, Pori Pori Almonds and Waku Waku Cashews.

Nuts for coconut

It started with the water but now the coconut trend is morphing new forms. Coconut Merchant (coconut-merchant.com) ethically sources organic coconut products and its award-winning range includes raw extra virgin coconut oil and butter, coconut sugar, flour and syrup, coconut water, and even coconut jam!

Ape Snacks’ (apesnack.com) coconut curls are a crisp-style snack. The dried rather than fried curls are available in lightly salted and slightly peppered and soon a new spiced flavour. Also soon to be launched are crunchy coconut bites in natural, chia and sesame. All are high in fibre, gluten-free, paleo and with no added sugars.

MightyBee (mightybee.com) is now offering a range of vegan organic jerky made from young coconut. The jerky comes in three flavours: chocolate and hazelnut, teriyaki, and spicy BBQ. It is free from gluten, refined sugar and preservatives.

Manufacturing potential

There are many other inventive ways to avoid frying. Air popping, for instance, which is no longer reserved for popcorn alone. Pop Chips’ popular range of potato snacks is popped in a high-pressure chamber and has just grown with the addition of a ridged variety in cheese and onion, smoky bacon, salt and vinegar and crazy hot flavours.

A more unusual popped snack is Nuto (mynuto.com), made from the lotus seed. Founder of Nuto, Babita Singh, says the nutritious seed is already a popular snack in India, where it grows in shallow pools, lakes and rivers.

The round balls are made from popping the outer shell of the seed. They are gluten-free, have a soft but pleasing munch and come in sweet maple and smoked paprika or salt and pepper flavours.

Nothing But (nothingbutsnack.com) is one of many snack brands using freeze drying to create the crunch. Its 20g bag snacks are all under 76 calories and come in flavours including pineapple and grape and mange tout and red pepper – nothing is added in the process.