For the pretzel category, it’s all about encouraging consumers and families to “Discover the Pretzelbilities.” The integrated marketing campaign by Snyder’s of Hanover aptly reflects the brand’s steady undercurrent of new product activity and touts its pretzels’ “topability, dipability, share ability and snackability,” according to Snyder’s-Lance, Charlotte, N.C. Just look at Snyder’s of Hanover Pretzel Poppers, which made their debut in February. It doesn’t matter if consumers prefer savory, sweet or old-fashioned pretzels, the hollow, airy, crispy snack comes in Original, three cheese or cinnamon.
For decades, the once-staid pretzel category positioned itself as the baked, more healthful alternative to other snacks, but that’s all changed in flavor, shape and texture during the past few years, observed Daryl Thomas, senior vice-president, Herr Foods, Nottingham, Pa.
“You still have the traditional forms, but we have had great success with our peanut butter-filled pretzels,” he said. “Then you have flatter pretzels designed for dipping or making a mini pretzel sandwich with cheese.”
Specifically, many snack manufacturers privately credited Snack Factory, now owned by Snyder’s-Lance, for introducing Pretzel Crisps — a flat, crunchy, hybrid snack that can be dipped like a chip or served as an appetizer or mini meal by topping it with cheeses and deli meat.
“Snyder’s-Lance is driven by innovation, consumer demand and understanding the role snack foods play in people’s lives,” said Dan Morgan, chief sales officer of Snyder’s-Lance.
That’s especially true when it comes to adding flavor, Mr. Morgan said. Snyder’s of Hanover now offers pretzel pieces in cinnamon sugar and salted caramel varieties while extending the bold and spicy line of the Snack Factory brand with sea salt and cracked pepper and honey mustard and onion flavors. In addition to the Pretzel Poppers, Snyder’s of Hanover also rolled out Bowties crispy flat dipping pretzels in Original, Everything, and Parmesan garlic.
Plano, Texas-based Frito-Lay North America has launched four sweet varieties under its Rold Gold brand. They include Cookies & Cream and Fudge Brownie Pretzel Dippers, as well as Sharp Cheddar and Creamy Fudge Pretzel Sandwiches.
Flavoring pretzels is not easy, mainly because the products’ smooth exterior makes them tricky to coat, noted Scott Carpenter, president and c.e.o. of Savor Street Foods, Wyomissing, Pa.
“A lot of millennials want to see more flavors,” he explained. “We’ve been seeing that for several years. Pretzels have been a little more difficult to flavor. You can do it, and there are companies that are doing it, but there is definitely room for a little bit more innovation on the pretzel side.”
Formerly The Bachman Co., Savor Street Foods sold off its brands and assets a few years ago and now contract manufactures a wide variety of pretzels, specializing in gluten-free offerings under such brands as the Clean, Lean and Savvy line.
Pretzels need innovation because they’re a household staple with a high penetration, said Amanda Topper, Mintel food analyst who authored a research report on salty snacks published in January.
“We know consumers are looking for snacks with big, bold flavors,” she said. “That’s where the growth will stem from.”
Pretzels also provide a value proposition, which makes private label a viable alternative for many households.
“Private label options are of such high quality that they’re rivaling the name brand options,” Ms. Topper said. “They’re comparable in flavor, format and quality. Consumers don’t feel they’re sacrificing anything when they trade down to private label.”
In addition to competing in other snack categories, naturally low-fat pretzels have received help in the form of publicity from the cracker aisle with pretzel hybrid products — even from the in-store bakery and food service chains with seemingly omnipresent pretzel rolls — that have spread its wholesome image and broadened its popularity among consumers, noted Scott Green, vice-president of sales and marketing for Pretzels, Inc., Bluffton, Ind.
“No longer are pretzels found in the center of the retail store,” he said. “They’re in the refrigerated section, the deli, the dairy section and in food service.”
Packaging innovation also makes pretzel products easy to consume. Pretzels, Inc. turned to the jerky category of all places to find a packaging format for pretzel rods.
“Rods are one of the easiest to produce, but one of the hardest to package,” said William “Chip” Mann II, president of Pretzels, Inc.
The rods come in a portable, single-serve five-pack that offers calorie control and may be merchandised with hot cheeses and other dips in concession stands, convenience stores and other channels as a meal replacement.
“We’re positioned well, but we have to continue to find ways to remain relevant and to provide the ‘wow factor’ in new ways with innovative packaging or product seasonings,” Mr. Mann said.
In other words, develop new twists and then shout them out.“It’s a healthy offering, a traditional snack; it’s portable and hits multiple channels,” he said.