A new age for snacks
BakingBusiness.com, May 1, 2013
by Dan Malovany, Baking & Snack

When General Mills rolled out Green Giant Veggie Snack Chips, evil thought No. 1 asked, “Chips in a can?” Evil thought No. 2 wondered how much sodium they contained. Actually, veggie snacks sold under such a brand is no big deal as the $115 billion macro-snack market evolves at an exponential rate.

Today, the conventional snack categories are under siege by “all other” snacks, which is now the third-largest segment in the salted snack market, according to SymphonyIRI data supplied to the Snack Food Association for its annual state-of-the-industry report.

Specifically, pellet, co-extruded, air-popped and other vegetable-based snacks are gaining traction from consumers, shelf space from retailers and attention from snack manufacturers like Snak King, which just installed a production line to manufacture such “new age snacks,” according to Joe Papiri, vice-president of sales and marketing.

“What are new age snacks? They’re like pop crisps — something that’s versatile and new,” he said. The segment may include extruded snacks made with atypical, nutritious ingredients such as green peas and fortified with vegetable powders that allow for a health claim on the package.

Even within established snack categories, the landscape is rapidly changing. That’s because of category crossover. Potato, corn and tortilla chips now battle with cracker, pretzel and popcorn crisps that compete in multiple categories and are marketed as healthful alternatives.

Totally new versions of snacks are emerging. Years ago, Snak King broke ground by rolling out the Guacachip — guacamole-flavored tortilla chips made with real avocados — under its El Sabroso brand. The company more recently came out with The Whole Earth-branded nut clusters that compete not only against candy and nuts but also in the broader poppable snack arena. Whole new forms of snacks are now on the shelves.

Brand extensions also have given birth to new products. Last year, ConAgra Foods took its Orville Redenbacher brand into the ready-to-eat category. This year, in addition to its gourmet popcorn, the business introduced Pop Crunch in such flavors as a Brown Sugar Cinnamon variety that opened popcorn consumption to a broader array of eating occasions, said Dan Skinner, manager, public relations/social media for the brand.

“Our team has really pushed the envelope on this one where we can take these flavors to reimagine popcorn as potentially a dessert or something that you would eat in lieu of a granola bar or at breakfast,” he said.

Reimagining the snacking occasion has manufacturers looking at the market in a whole new light. When asked about Snak King’s best-selling products, Mr. Papiri didn’t mention chips or popcorn. “The top-selling categories are natural, ¬≠organic, functional and better-for-you products,” he said.

In this new age era, it’s not a laughing matter that a brand has gone from canned veggies to vegetable snacks. Ho, ho, ho, Green Giant. For more trend information, check out Snack World magazine’s in-depth report later this month.