Brands tap into the growing air fryer trend31 Jan 2023
Air fryer ownership in the UK has risen with consumers citing its health benefits and cost effectiveness. “Food businesses need to consider how this might impact the way their products are prepared,” says Leatherhead Food Research.
Insights from Leatherhead Food Research revealed that almost a third of UK households (30%) currently own an air fryer.
The figure was higher when there were children in the home (37%), reaching 51% for households with three or more children.
Of the UK households that don’t currently own an air fryer, 22% plan to buy one in the next 12 months. The report’s authors stated: “Food businesses need to consider how this might impact the way their products are prepared.
“Air fryers come with general guidance on how to cook different types of food, but many consumers would prefer more specific instructions.”
Vegan brands at forefront of air fryer cooking instructions
The question is, should food manufacturers offer specific food products for air fryers or include dedicated instructions on the product’s packaging?
At the time of writing, there are few food products specifically for preparation in an air fryer, or that feature dedicated cooking instructions on pack.
UK vegan brand Biff’s Plant Shack launched a street food-inspired range in September last year that uses Jackfruit as a meat alternative in its products.
The range includes Biff’s hero Crispy Fried Jackfruit Wingz, and Crispy Fried Jackfruit Burgers with the range rounded off with Smoky Chilli Cheeze Waffle Fries and Banging Bhaji Loaded Fries as sides.
The product range launch stands out as featuring updated cooking instructions to the Crispy Fried Jackfruit Burgers and Wingz, making Biff’s one of the first brands in the UK to add air frying cook times to their retail products.
“We believe we bring something new to the aisles,” said Biff Bloom-Burrows, Biff’s founder. “With our focus on experiential, flavour-focussed plant-led innovation we’re well suited to support these rapidly changing consumer trends – such as supporting energy-conscious consumers – which our first air fryer-optimised products demonstrate.”
Other food products that are air-fryer friendly include Canadian plant-based brand Wholly Veggie, which make available three new products that are air fryer-friendly and sustainable.
Its vegan Mozzarella sticks, Cheddar sticks, and sweet potato popcorn, were created in response to changing eating habits, notably a rise in demand for products that can be prepared in air fryers.
Air fryer owners unsure about cooking times
Leatherhead Food research found half of UK adults who own an air fryer struggle with knowing how long to cook food in it.
This issue is most evident in the 35-44 age group, where 60% say they struggle with cooking times.
Similarly, 64% of all owners say they would cook more with their air fryer if cooking instructions were included on product labels, and this rises to 69% for people aged 35-44.
Air fryer sector achieved global growth rate of around 15% in 2021
There are a number of reasons why food makers are slow to consider air fryer technology. With the market really only gaining traction in recent years, the industry has adopted a wait-and-see approach to ensure it is not another passing fad or trend.
The market for air fryer-specific foods is a new one with the very first air fryer invented back in 2010 by Philips. The sector has achieved global growth of around 15% in 2021, according to Euromonitor International.
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Also, consumer interest in the UK could be attributed to the cost-of-living crisis with more than half of the UK households who own an air fryer (53%) saying it is cheaper to run than an oven.
The air fryer’s main unique selling point is its health benefits, with the device achieving a comparable ‘fried’ and ‘crispy’ taste without the drawbacks of using high fat oil and its associated cardiovascular health risks.
The cooking method means that along with chips and fried chicken, vegetables can also be cooked in an air fryer and come out with a light, crisp texture as does fish and meat.
Some air fryer brands go further with some models including a rotisserie function for cooking whole chickens, while others are designed to create stir-fries and curries.