KANSAS CITY – The other salted snacks category tends to be a place where innovation reigns and better-for-you is the order of the day. Manufacturers are giving consumers what they want, and the category enjoyed 6.2% growth with $3 billion in dollar sales, according to data from Information Resources, Inc., Chicago, for the 52 weeks ended Feb. 21, 2016.
Consumers continue to push for more protein, even in their snack foods, but they are looking for alternative sources and more plant-based ingredients, which are perceived as healthier.
As a result, trends in using alternative “pulse” proteins such as lentils, chickpeas and green peas are growing, especially with the United Nations proclaiming 2016 as “International Year of Pulses” to help raise awareness of health benefits when used as a food ingredient.
Jumping on this emerging trend, Snak King, City of Industry, Calif., added an extruded green pea-based snack, Veggibles Baked Lentil and Green Pea Sticks, to The Whole Earth line that has been well-received in retail stores.
|Joe Papiri, vice-president of sales and marketing forSnak King|
“We are seeing a solid growth in healthier items,” said Joe Papiri, vice-president of sales and marketing, Snak King. “We introduced varieties of extruded snacks made from pulses to capitalize on this expanding segment.”
Likewise, Inventure Foods, Phoenix, offers Boulder Canyon Protein Crisps, which are non-bioengineered snacks packing 10 grams of lentil- and pea-based protein per serving. They are available in savory and sweet flavors, Asiago cheese and chocolate, and the company is looking to add new flavors later this year.
Clean label products continue to be significant drivers as consumers try to steer clear of overly processed foods and demand transparency, according to Innova Market Insights’ Top Ten Trends for 2016. Manufacturers now are including ingredients in their snacks that are natural, organic, non-G.M.O. verified and minimally processed.
Snak King also continues to expand organic and clean label offerings like their tri-colored organic vegetable tortilla chips.
“We see the organic trend continuing to expand,” Mr. Papiri said. “There are growth opportunities for products that have great taste and also have some healthy attributes.”
Hain Celestial Group, Inc., Hyde Park, N.Y., is one of the largest natural and organic snack food companies in the United States. Its Sensible Portions snacks offer a blend of non-bioengineered ingredients derived from potatoes and other vegetables without artificial flavors and preservatives. Most Sensible Portions snack products are gluten-free. New products for the brand include Sensible Portions stackable Garden Veggie Chips Potato Crisps.
“Snacking has expanded significantly and increasingly consumers are looking for natural, organic and wholesome, better-for-you options,” said Brett Hartmann, category manager snacks and grains, Hain Celestial Group. “Our Sensible Portions brand is a snack that parents can feel good about sharing with their family and friends.”
Hain Celestial’s Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Straws grew nearly 49% with dollar sales totaling $70 million, according to I.R.I.’s report.
Brands from Inventure Foods meet consumer preference for both healthier options and indulgence. The company also added baked and extruded Sweet Potato Fries to its Boulder Canyon line. They are made with real sweet potatoes and topped off with just a hint of salt.
“Boulder Canyon is positioned for the better-for-you, clean ingredient, gluten-free, non-G.M.O. consumer,” said Steven Sklar, senior vice-president, general manager, snack division, Inventure Foods. “However, within our indulgent brands, many of our products are baked, and all are gluten-free, kosher and made with no trans fat.”
Inventure Foods’ brands like TGI Fridays, Nathan’s and Vidalia are more indulgent and come in many flavors. Last year, the company added zesty ranch to its Vidalia Onion Petals line and will introduce sour cream and onion this year. It also expanded its popular TGI Friday’s licensed snack line with the introduction of Sweet Potato Skins. Sweet Potato Skins join the existing Friday’s line of Potato Skins Snacks that includes cheddar and bacon, cheddar and sour cream, jalapeño and cheddar, sour cream and onion, chili cheese and bacon ranch varieties.
Snak King is launching a peanut butter coated corn puff, Nut Butter Puffs, as part of The Whole Earth brand. The snack also has peanut butter baked into the product, making its weight 50% peanut butter.
“This item capitalizes on the growth in the nut category coupled with the rage for products with higher protein totals,” Mr. Papiri said.
Alternative snacks have been around for some time, and about 10 years ago, Snak King brought early innovation to the game by introducing its Guacachip, which layered guacamole into a sheeted tortilla chip. It became a precursor to producers using processing techniques like extrusion, co-extrusion and a combination of sheeters or other forming systems, and air or compressed popped processes to manufacture multi-textured products that are competitive in a number of categories.
Flavor and texture are important opportunities and should be balanced with efforts to include healthy attributes. Consumers are looking for exciting snacks, and Hain Celestial innovates accordingly.
“With Terra branded chips, we have focused on bringing unique vegetables to market with exciting flavors, colors and textures,” Mr. Hartmann said. “We recently debuted Terra Pickled Beet Chips with Dill and Celery Root Chips with Aged Cheese.”
This summer Hain Celestial will add Terra Real Freeze Dried Fruit, a premium, adult-targeted offering of real freeze-dried fruit in a convenient shelf-stable format.Additionally, more Americans are taking advantage of the convenience of snacking occasions, so it’s important to position snacks not only for entertaining occasions but also for personal consumption. And innovation in the other snacks category creates opportunities for all.