The number of new products in the hors d'oeuvres category will be lower in 2002 than in previous years, but the variety of hors d'oeuvres products is still very wide, with ethnic foods being particularly prevalent. From spring rolls and samosas to pakoras and peppers, Mintel's Amanda Lintott reports on the latest hors d'oeuvres to hit the market.

Mintel's GNPD (Global New Product Database) finds a number of cultural and societal factors influencing the ingredient and packaging trends in the hors d'oeuvres category. Of particular interest is the high number of ethnic snack products and the trend towards portable packaging. Hors d'oeuvres positioned as "ethnic" were common in new product activity in 2002, spawning from Asian and Hispanic products to new cultural influences from India and Morocco. Some companies have even introduced "variety packs" that contain multiple samples of ethnic hors d'oeuvres, important in a time when consumers' curiosity about other cultures is increasing.

Mintel classifies hors d'oeuvres as part of the snack category. In fact the snack category is broken down into hors d'oeuvres, meat snacks, nuts, savoury/salty snacks and snack bars. In terms of actual numbers of introductions, the hors d'oeuvres category is not forecast to experience quite as much new product activity in 2002 as the previous two years. Looking at the total number of snack introductions in the first half of 2002, the hors d'oeuvres category accounted for only 9% of launch activity. The savoury/salty snack subcategory remains a dominating force in the snack category with a 25% increase in launch activity over 2001.

Looking specifically at the Asian Pacific market, Mintel finds more than 50 introductions expected for the year, doubling the 2001 figure. The European, Middle Eastern, and African markets are experiencing the most hors d'oeuvre development with an estimated 40% of launch activity by the end of 2002. The North American market will see a significant drop of about 46% in launch activity in 2002.

Two of the most common positioning claims in the hors d'oeuvres category from 1999 to 2002 are products that are 'ethnic' and 'microwavable'.

Asian influence

Spring rolls continue to be a dominant presence in the hors d'oeuvres category and also a big contributor to the general popularity of Oriental snack items. Many different countries sell versions of a spring roll, often prepared in the microwave, and also including the typical cabbage and carrot vegetable components.

Earlier this year Migros introduced ChopStick Frühlingsrollen, spring rolls with prawns and vegetables, in Switzerland. During the summer of 2002, Nippon Meat Packers introduced its Ajia Shokusaikan Spring Rolls - uncooked rice sheets filled with vermicelli, pork, vegetables, and shrimp - in Japan. However, the influence runs deeper than spring rolls, and many new snack hors d'oeuvres are emerging with flavours inspired by the Orient.

Examples of this are becoming prevalent in the US with products such as the Day-Lee Potsticker finger foods and in Canada with the Asian Delight mini potstickers from Briska.

From Bofrost in the Netherlands are Azia Snacks, assorted pre-fried Asian specialities such as: Cha Ha Mai, filled with prawns and pork; Niu Jou Chia, filled with beef,  pork and watercress; Chi Ma Kai, filled with chicken, pork and watercress; and Fong Me, filled with chicken, prawns, pork and watercress.

Hispanic and Indian cuisine

Hors d'oeuvres that are considered Hispanic are common in many different countries across the globe. New varieties vary in the degree to which they could be considered "authentic," but nonetheless, the Hispanic influence is quite obvious. Some of the mainstream selections include the Tex-Mex Hot Cheddar Cheese Peppers in Finland from Simplot, frozen, battered, and breaded jalapeño pepper halves stuffed with cheddar cheese. Also in the US from Speciality Brands are José Olé Mexi-Minis Chicken & Cheese Mini Burritos, which are claimed to be made with real cheese. A more traditional offering is found in Israel from Willy Foods with a red pepper hors d'oeuvre stuffed with cheese.

Although Asian and Hispanic fare are still quite common hors d'oeuvre options, some new arrivals are gaining in popularity among consumers worldwide. For example, Indian cuisine has sparked the interest of a few manufacturers in many countries. The UK in particular saw quite a bit of Indian cuisine options emerge in the hors d'oeuvres category in 2002. For example, UK retailer Safeway introduced an Indian Takeaway bag containing a variety of mini Indian snacks: 5 vegetable bhajis; 5 tomato pakoras; 5 onion pakoras; and chili coriander dip. From New Zealand are Spinach Boreks, a Turkish hors d'oeuvre comprised of a blend of spinach, potato, carrots, vegetables, and peppers wrapped in a light flaky filo pastry.

Other cultures are gaining in popularity among consumers, and manufacturers are responding to this trend with hors d'oeuvres that satisfy the curious minds of the increasingly diverse consumer. In France are the Pirojki hors d'oeuvres under the Blini line. The product originated in Russia and is available with meat or vegetables. New in the UK from Marks & Spencer are the Mediterranean Deli Mini Falafel made with the traditional Middle Eastern style with chickpeas, coriander, and spices.

Cross-culture variety packs

In many countries, the popularity of ethnic food items created a market for variety packs that include samples from various aspects of different cultures. These variety packs are an easy way for consumers to sample many different snack variations from other cultures with one purchase. In addition many of the packs include sauces for dipping, eliminating the guesswork involved with finding the appropriate condiments to accompany the product.

In the Netherlands, Eismann introduced Asia Snackbox, comprising four different Asian snack specialities: Asia snack (pre-fried prawns in filled pastry pouch), toasts with prawns, samosas (triangular pastry bags filled with prawns and vegetables), prawns in crispy pastry bag (tail segment), and one bag with a dip.

Available in US Sam's Club stores, the company sets forth its new Pu Pu Platter, which contains five types of appetisers and two dipping sauces. Included in the platter are teriyaki glazed chicken po po skewers, pork egg rolls, chicken potstickers, spicy beef tiki bites, and tempura battered chicken nuggets along with Hawaiian sweet & sour and Szechuan spicy garlic sauces. In the UK, from Sainsbury's is a party set containing ten party-size onion bhajis and ten party-size samosas. Packaged in a paperboard box, it is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Domestic produce and speciality diets

In the opposite direction of ethnic offerings are products positioned as domestic or as more traditional. For example one company in Australia, Patties Bakery, produces a Spinach & Ricotta Triangle claimed to be 100% Australian. Although many countries manufacture snack hors d'oeuvres that were domestically created, not many products claim on the packaging to be 100% of any culture.

The amount of vegetarian snack products in the hors d'oeuvres category increased by more than 250% from 1999 to 2002 worldwide. Many of these meatfree products come in a wide variety of formats and vary across cultures and countries in terms of ingredient combinations.

Expert Analysis

The Global Market for Savoury Snacks

This in-depth investigation into the global market for savoury snacks provides comprehensive strategic analysis of the latest trends in the market, as well as an overview of eight product sectors and the major national markets. Sales of savoury snacks are analysed at both world and regional levels, as well as in over 50 individual countries.

 

On a final note, dieters interested in avoiding carbohydrates in order to shed unwanted pounds would be interested in hors d'oeuvres from Atkins Nutritionals. The company, known for its product lines with reduced carbohydrate content, introduced a Heat-and-Serve Quiches and Soufflés line with a Four Cheese Quiche and Crab & Cheddar Soufflé. The new diet-conscious hors d'oeuvres joined Atkins Nutritionals other carbcutting product lines such as energy bars, bakery products, sauces, and candy. What is also interesting about this particular product is that it is individually packaged in single serve portions because many hors d'oeuvre products come in large, family-sized bags with large portions.

By Amanda Lintott, Mintel