Speaking to BakeryandSnacks.com, Sara Grady said part of the problem was that all-natural snacking had gone from niche to mass market in a very short space of time.
“All-natural claims started off appealing to health conscious adults, but it’s definitely moved into all demographics,” she said.
All-natural snacks used to be a niche product but were now affordable with a premium feel, representing a sizeable chunk of the snacks market in North America and Western Europe, she said.
With this shift into mainstream, a raft of class action lawsuits had started to hurt the trend, particularly in the US, she said. Diamond Foods , Frito-Lay and Kellogg were just a handful of companies that had faced all-natural lawsuits in the past year.
“In terms of the global picture, I think the all-natural snacking trend has peaked in the most developed markets for the moment. We don’t know what the outcome of these court cases will be yet – whether it’s done enough damage for producers to stop using the claim entirely or whether it will become premiumized and generally natural products will come to the fore.
“...But already we’re seeing in more mature markets that the trend is starting to falter because there are unclear definitions on what all-natural actually means.”
Manufacturers had started to avoid using ‘all-natural’ on new products, she said, and were shifting focus on different aspects and using phrases like ‘simply’ instead. “But I don’t know if that’s going to last very long either,” she added.
Companies are increasingly accountable
Consumer power had grown over the past few years, Grady said, and consumers would continue to challenge producers on claims that weren’t backed up completely.
“Companies are increasingly accountable for everything they do and I don’t see that going away, especially these days where reputation can be so easily damaged by social media.”
The problem with all-natural was that every consumer had a different perspective, she said.
“It’s one of those things – it’s there and the idea of it is nice and comforting knowing the product hasn’t been tampered with… But I don’t think everyone really knows what all-natural really entails.”
Still room for growth in Russia and Africa
Despite the downwards trend in the US and Western Europe, Grady said markets like Russia and Africa still held promise for all-natural snacks.
“Russia is a younger commercial market just because of the history around it. The all-natural claim has only really cropped up recently and gained a lot of traction there,” she said.
“…It will be a while until consumers become suspicious and mistrust claims like this.”
All-natural Russian snack company The Marc Bakery had recently expanded its line in the country and had big future growth plans for the all-natural snacking space .
Areas of Africa presented long-term growth opportunities for the all-natural snacking trend, she said. “It’s still quite underdeveloped, so I think it’s going to happen as and when it’s really a priority for consumers.”