Consumers want to eat and still accomplish everything in their increasingly busy days. We've talked a lot on this blog about how grocery shoppers these days demand foods that are both healthy and grab-and-go.
Preserving "good" nutrition while simultaneously increasing shelf life and portability presents a real challenge to food producers. And now that the FDA is banning trans-fats, food producers no longer have the option of trading one off for the other. The industry must find more and better ways of meeting consumers' demands for healthy, single-serve foods.
The realm of protein bites is an intriguing one for food producers looking to find solutions in this market. From jerkies of all kinds to bean-based snacks and more, there is plenty of opportunity for convenient, snackified and healthy single-serving meals.
A vegan favorite may offer a new opportunity for grab-and-go protein.
The recent gluten-free craze aside, seitan — a chewy, protein-rich meat substitute made from wheat gluten — has been a staple of vegan diets for decades. It's pre-cooked, so it can be served re-heated or cold. It lends itself well to faux-deli slices, to large centerpiece roasts, to inclusion in chunky soups or stews or to topping salads.
It's that kind of versatility that may help seitan to buck gluten-free hysteria and reclaim a place of prominence in American consumers' revamped, healthier diets.
Seitan also has a long shelf-life — atypical for most protein bites. If properly stored, it can stay fresh and good for weeks in the refrigerator. It's easy to slice up and include in a packed lunch, to snack on direct from the package or to incorporate with frozen veggies and quick rice into a healthy, fast heat-and-serve dinner.
But perhaps best of all, like tempeh, seitan is relatively flavor neutral. As a wheat product, it has a high umami rating, but otherwise is neither salty, sweet, bitter nor sour in its naked form. Thus, it is an ideal base for developing savory, salty or slightly-sweet foods that will appeal to diverse palettes.
One of the reasons that the jerky market has exploded over the past several years is that, like seitan and other neutral protein bases, jerky can be customized to reflect a wide variety of tastes and flavor palettes.
So too can chips. We've seen heavy diversification in the snack chip market over the last decade. No longer just the citadel of potato and corn-based chips, the snack aisle now includes kale chips, exotic root vegetable chips, seaweed chips and more.
But, now, some manufacturers are also toying with seed and nut-based chips, bringing protein-rich bites into a niche traditionally ruled by starchy carbs. Still others, like Simply7, are making chips out of protein-rich grains, like quinoa, garbanzo beans and lentils.
Simply7 even includes a handy click-your-niche product finder on its website: the curious foodie can see, for example, which product in the line matches up to the consumer's requirements. Want to know which chip is both high in protein and vegan? Click those buttons and watch the pictures to see which products stay highlighted.
Want to narrow down your selection even more? Click non-GMO, too (the remaining chip products are Quinoa Sea Salt chips and Quinoa Barbecue chips, if you want to know). And it's precisely that kind of innovative presentation and marketing that appeals to the web-savvy, mobile-driven, busy Millennial foodie.
Today's food marketplace is fast-paced, demanding and taste-diverse.
It is incumbent upon food producers and food marketers to develop products that appeal to busy shoppers' divergent demands for health, clean nutrition, long shelf life and easy portability.
Whether bold new jerky flavors, adventurous seitan-based protein bites or high-protein chips are the answer for your company, hit the test kitchen and experiment because, right now, single-serving snack bites are where it's at.