KANSAS CITY — When it comes to snacking, consumers want indulgent salty snacks, but they want them to be healthier as well as portable, so they can maintain their busy on-the-go lifestyle. Growth in sales of salty snacks in the United States has been steady, and sales increased 3.5% to reach $22 billion in 2015, according to a recent Packaged Facts report, Salty Snacks in the U.S., 4th Edition.
Potato chips continue to be the top salty snack seller in the United States with $16.9 billion, according to data from Information Resources, Inc. for the 52 weeks ended Feb. 21, 2016.
|Bob Clark, vice-president of marketing for Herr Foods|
“Herr’s is very focused on potato chips as it is our heritage and the largest part of the snack food category,” said Bob Clark, vice-president of marketing, Herr Foods Inc., Nottingham, Pa. “There is emphasis here on flavor innovation and the growth of the kettle chip platform.”
Herr Foods redesigned its kettle potato chip bags to improve shelf visibility and create a more upscale design. As a result, the company has seen solid growth.
Snack manufacturers can continue this growth by broadening flavor profiles from other foods and other world cuisines, appealing to nostalgic snack cravings, or innovating with new shapes and cooking technologies, according to the Packaged Facts report.
“Millennials enjoy heat in their snacks, so we launched a few extreme heat items,” said Kelly McGolrick, senior director, Shearer's Snacks, Massillon, Ohio. “For boomers, we kept the section fresh with trending flavors that they find in restaurants or in sauces.”
Shearer’s Snacks introduced flavors that include Smoked Gouda Kettle Chips and Rosemary and Feta Crinkle Kettle Chips to bring restaurant food trends to the snack category. Other Shearer’s brands turn up the heat with Larry the Cable Guy Holler-Peno Popper potato chips and Rachel’s Sriracha Sour Cream Kettle Chips.
“In the potato chips category, consumers respond to new and different flavors, and there has been growth in the ribbed and kettle format,” said Chuck Tullis, senior vice-president of sales, Utz Quality Foods, Inc., Hanover, Pa. “Alternative oils like olive and avocado have taken off, and sea salt is growing in popularity for gourmet variety chips.”
One of the biggest trends in potato chips in 2015 was the type of oil used, specifically coconut and olive oil, according to Canadean’s Product Launch Analytics database of new products. Spicy flavors such as sriracha and chipotle were popular, and lattice-cut chips also seem to be gaining interest.
Inventure Foods, Phoenix, cooks its Boulder Canyon brand kettle chips in coconut oil and seasons them with sea salt. The wavy, ridged canyon-cut kettle chips are made in 100% avocado oil and offered in several flavors like jalapeño and malt vinegar and sea salt.
“We are seeing a lot of unique ingredients, ethnic flavors and heat combinations coming out in many categories,” said Steven Sklar, senior vice-president, general manager snack division, Inventure Foods. “We introduced two flavors, pineapple habanero and red curry, in our Boulder Canyon Coconut Oil Kettle Chip brands.”
Golden Flake, Birmingham, Ala., is seeing positive trends in the potato chip category, especially with its thin and crispy brands, outpacing the wavy or dip chips. The company introduced two new flavors, buffalo ranch and tangy pickle BBQ.
“These two flavors have performed equally well, actually over-performing across channels, supermarkets, convenience stores, etc.,” said Dave Jones, executive vice-president of operations, Golden Flake. “These two products were a departure from our typical products. They are exceeding expectations, and the flavors and package differentiation are a big part of this success.”
Last August, Utz partnered with Heluva Good! to offer dip-flavored chips to create a unique and fun experience for customers. The chips come in French onion, bacon horseradish, and jalapeño cheddar to replicate the flavors of the dips.
The Cape Cod brand from Snyder’s-Lance, Charlotte, N.C., introduced two limited-batch flavors for its kettle-cooked potato chips. The new roasted black garlic and smoked Gouda flavors were inspired by ingredients used in high-end cuisine.
Innovation with flavors has proved successful as Utz’s Kettle Classics potato chips grew 12.9% in dollar sales, and Cape Cod notched $210 million with 10.7% growth, according to I.R.I. data.
PepsiCo Inc.’s Frito Lay division, Plano, Texas, accounts for an overwhelming majority of sales, with seven potato chip brands ranked among the top 20 with highest dollar sales. As the maker of the leading brand, the company’s successful strategy has been to introduce flavors using feedback and customer participation, such as the Lay’s Do Us A Flavor contest, according Mintel’s report on Chips, Salsa and Dips, January 2015.
Limited-time offers, seasonal products and other short-term flavor offerings ignite customer excitement and give retailers new and different products to display to keep things fresh down the grocery store aisles. By offering Utz’s trendy, new fried dill pickle potato chips for only a short time, it entices the shopper to buy more chips because it might not be there the next week.
The industry also is seeing a trend toward iconic health ingredients that appear to make potato chips more healthful, according to Canadean’s Product Launch Analytics database of new products. Preference for fresh, better-for-you foods continues to drive demand for chips and snacks. Despite the need for indulgence, consumers likely will choose products free from artificial ingredients and with clean labels, according to the Mintel report. Nearly 6 in 10 consumers said they are more apt to buy products with natural ingredients, and more than half said it is important for brands to be free from artificial ingredients.
Herr’s added a Maui onion-flavored popped chip to its line of Go Lite snacks. Pop chips are manufactured by processing potato starch at high pressure and temperature, in a process similar to that used for puffed rice cakes. It helps reduce calories and fat, while retaining flavor and crunch. The new popped chip is made with cassava, a vegetable essential to a native South American diet, adding to the line’s healthy halo.
Last year, Utz re-launched and rebranded its Good Health products in the Utz Specialty Division to excite consumers and provide retailers with a range of better-for-you options and craft and regional snack foods.
“We focused on our unique brands, Zapps and Dirty, by offering something different in the marketplace,” said Kevin J. Brick, senior vice-president of marketing, Utz Quality Foods, Inc. “We have seen some nice traction, and Utz has become a mainstay player as these better-for-you brands have resonated with our customers.”
Manufacturers must develop products and include ingredients that stay true to these important trends while considering the continuing increase of snacking occasions.
“Busy lifestyles and the demand for convenience influence snacking, and consumers like the smaller package size that can be eaten on the way to their next event,” Mr. Brick added. “Snacks in place of a meal are more commonplace because they are portable, convenient and taste good.”
Nearly 8 in 10 respondents reported buying potato and tortilla chips, according to the Mintel report. However, snacking behaviors differ among generational segments and should be considered by manufacturers when marketing brands.
“Snacking has come a long way from putting a bag of chips in the kids’ lunch as part of the ordinary dietary routine,” said Jeff Martin, executive vice-president of sales and marketing, Utz Quality Foods.
In a recent report, The NPD Group found baby boomers choose ready-to-eat snacks 20% more often than millennials. While millennials choose on-the-go snacks when hungry, boomers select snack foods instead of choosing to prepare a big meal.
“I think it’s a combination of convenience and attitudes about meals,” said Mark Winkelman, president, Better Made Snack Foods, Inc., Detroit, and chairman of SNAC International. “Convenience is key, because people are on the go and want something quick and nutritious. However, people are changing their attitudes about food, moving away from three big meals a day toward eating five to six smaller meals. Snacking fits that perfectly.”
Don’t forget the kids — children and teenagers consumed more snack foods than both demographics. Older and younger consumers alike choose snacks based on taste and craving, according to the NPD Group report, and potato chips were listed among the top three snack picks for both groups.Manufacturers have been quick to develop new products and modify the ingredients of existing products to keep salty snacks relevant even in the discussion of healthier-for-you snacks, noted David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts. Embracing this important trend, coupled with the growing desire of consumers to eat on the run and the need for indulgences are significant drivers for salty snack sales between now and 2020.