How can healthy snacks catch up to indulgent?

by Joanie Spencer
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Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice-president and practice leader, Information Resources, Inc.,
Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice-president and practice leader of Information Resources, Inc. spoke at SNAXPO 2017.

SAVANNAH, GA. — American consumers gravitate toward health and wellness, which creates opportunity for growth in the snacking universe. But don’t be fooled … healthy snacks don’t yet rule the roost. Salty snacks still reign supreme, and indulgent snacks are winning the day in the macrosnacking universe, said Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice-president and practice leader, Information Resources, Inc., speaking at SNAXPO 2017.

Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice-president and practice leader, Information Resources, Inc.,
Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice-president and practice leader for Information Resources, Inc.

“From a macro perspective, indulgent snacks are outpacing the healthier,” Ms. Lyons Wyatt said, noting that indulgent snacks have seen 2.5% growth vs. a decline of -2.2% on the healthy side. However, she said, on core snacking — looking at traditional snacks as a whole — it’s all experiencing growth.

In terms of raw-dollar growth, Frito-Lay North America, Plano, Texas, spurred growth in 2016 through innovations such as new flavor developments. Additionally, Ms. Lyons Wyatt pointed out that sales of whole-fat ice cream, yogurt and other novelties have increased, spurring a return to dairy.

“Fat is back,” she said. “It does indeed have some healthy benefits.”

Baked snacks, including donuts and cookies, are experiencing raw-dollar growth.

Despite the overall decline for healthy snacks, Ms. Lyons Wyatt identified a few sub-categories that found success in 2016, due in part to portability for products such as fruit, nuts and meat snacks, one she pointed out to be poised for huge future growth.

Those snacks that saw a decrease in sales from 2015 to 2016 included fat-free and reduced-fat products as well as sugar-free gum and even healthier popcorn, specifically ready-to-eat. She suggested that it’s the lean toward indulgent snacks that may be causing popcorn’s slowdown.

In the core snacking segment, which consists of the more traditional snacks, indulgent items have seen 3.4% growth, as opposed to those that are positioned as healthier, which grew just 0.9%.

The reason for indulgent snacks’ leap ahead has to do with how snack manufacturers are developing their products to be more permissible by adding healthier attributes such as whole grains and superfruits. Companies are also touting the health benefits of ingredients like chocolate, Ms. Lyons Wyatt said.

“People still love to treat themselves, reward themselves,” she said.

With 53% of food and beverage categories containing chocolate, and as consumers turn snacking into “treating,” chocolate is creating wins for not only snacks, but also other foods across the board. In fact, in the declining ready-to-eat cereal category, cereals with chocolate are one of the few still seeing sales rise.

In a recent I.R.I. poll, 62% of total U.S. consumers cited turning to other snack items besides chocolate candy to get a chocolate fix.

Today’s snacking consumers have gone away from looking for foods that offer “free from” claims and gravitating toward snacks with benefits.

Indulgent snacks’ healthy halos are adding benefits not only to the products themselves, they’re also boosting sales. If healthy snacks are to keep up with the indulgence momentum, they can look to a similar strategy by adding an indulgent spin with ingredients such as chocolate.

“Some snack categories that might have been inherently indulgent in the past now have more options,” My Lyons Wyatt said, “which is what snack manufacturers need to do.”  
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