Snyder's of Hanover pretzel pieces
Snyder’s of Hanover introduced S’mores flavored Sweet & Salty Pretzel Pieces and Filled Pieces with Real Peanut Butter.

KANSAS CITY — Bold flavors and better-for-you attributes are the primary trends driving the pretzel category, along with convenient, ready-to-eat products for busy consumers. Pretzels are the ideal choice when looking for low-fat, convenient snacking options with new taste combinations.

Scott Carpenter, Savor Street Foods
Scott Carpenter, president and c.e.o. of Savor Street Foods

“Pretzels in general match up well with many of the macro trends in the food industry specifically within the snacking categories,” said Scott R. Carpenter, president and chief executive officer, Savor Street Foods, Inc., Reading, Pa.

In addition to mouth-watering and satisfying flavors, Snyder’s-Lance is locked in on gluten-free.

Bill Hooker, Snyder's-Lance
Bill Hooker, vice-president of sales strategy for Snyder’s-Lance

“Provide flavors — bold flavors,” said Bill Hooker, vice-president, sales strategy, Snyder’s-Lance, Inc., Charlotte, N.C. “Our pieces line is a very unique item for us in the pretzel category, and consumers who snack on that product are looking for more flavors, bold flavors in particular.”

Snyder’s of Hanover introduced several products for its pieces line. S’mores flavored Sweet & Salty Pretzel Pieces combine crunchy sourdough pretzels with marshmallow and chocolate flavors. Snyder’s of Hanover now also offers Filled Pieces with Real Peanut Butter boasting 4 grams of protein per serving. In addition, the company rolled out its 50% Less Pretzel Pieces in two flavors: Everything and Zesty Ranch.

Snyder's of Hanover 50% less fat pretzel pieces
Snyder's of Hanover recently out its 50% Less Pretzel Pieces in Everything and Zesty Ranch flavors.

Snyder’s-Lance is seeing a lot of positive trends around gluten-free and continues to expand its offerings in that targeted market. Last year, the company expanded its Snyder’s of Hanover brand to include gluten-free flavored pretzel sticks in honey mustard and onion and hot Buffalo wing flavors. It also launched its first gluten-free Pretzel Crisps item in 2015. Pretzel Crisps offers the low-fat, salty crunch of a pretzel in a flat shape that may be dipped like a chip or served as an appetizer or mini meal by topping it with cheeses and meat.

“Our corporate strategy is to expand on our better-for-you options for consumers,” Mr. Hooker said. “We know that’s where they’re trending, and we want to stay ahead of the curve.”

Snyder's of Hanover gluten-free flavored pretzel sticks
Last year, Snyder's-Lance expanded its Snyder’s of Hanover brand to include gluten-free flavored pretzel sticks in honey mustard and onion and hot Buffalo wing flavors.

Savor Street Foods added a gluten-free pretzel line in late 2014 to address the growing private label demand for these products.

“As a private label co-packer, our customers are increasingly asking us to create recipes that include more nutritional ingredients, different grains and gluten-free if possible,” Mr. Carpenter said.

Pretzels were the original low-fat go-to snack, and then popcorn and nuts gained popularity, possibly because more consumers chose gluten-free options. But now, pretzels are back.

Jeff Martin, Utz
Jeff Martin, executive vice-president of sales and marketing for Ut

“The resurgence of pretzels may be that consumers took a break (from other salty snacks) and are now rediscovering pretzels and perceive them to be another alternative to popcorn or nuts for a healthier, low-fat, 100 to 200 calorie snack,” said Jeff Martin, executive vice-president, sales and marketing, Utz Quality Foods, Hanover, Pa.

The health halo has been positive for the pretzel category. When considering calories per 1-oz serving of many snack items, including pretzels, they are usually between 110 and 130 calories, which is consistent in terms of portion control for consumers.

“After making pretzels for 37 years, our base core pretzel business is still very strong and carrying the day,” said William “Chip” Mann, II, co-chairman, executive vice-president, sales, Pretzels, Inc. “Although, there is a trend, as with other snacks, to provide the flavor varieties that millennials want, and there are growth opportunities there, some of our highest volume growth items are traditional pretzels.”

As a low-cost, high-volume item, pretzels are used a lot as inclusions, in blends and mixes.

Skippy PB Bites, Hormel
 Skippy P.B. Bites feature a crunchy pretzel center made by Pretzels, Inc., with a soft, non-sticky peanut butter coating.

“We’ve had some luck developing new products, not for retail, but used as inclusions in other items for our customers,” Mr. Mann said. “It’s a value-add. We make a little pretzel ball that is going into a couple of new national brand item offerings.”

Hormel’s Skippy brand Skippy P.B. Bites comes in two varieties: pretzel and double peanut butter. Skippy P.B. Bites pack 5 grams of protein per serving and feature a crunchy pretzel center made by Pretzels, Inc., with a soft, non-sticky peanut butter coating.

Millennials lead the charge in terms of demand for convenience-based snacks and foods, but older consumers are also looking for quick, portable foods as well, said Jared Koerten, senior analyst, Euromonitor, who recently spoke at SNAC International’s SNAXPO convention. The idea of product combinations through packaging to maximize convenience is a growing trend. For example, Frito Lay North America, Plano, Texas, launched the idea of pairing its Rold Gold pretzels and packing them with Sabre hummus, resulting in a great on-the-go product. Last year, Rold Gold Pretzel Dippers featured pretzel rods paired with sweet dips like Fudge Brownie and Cookies & Cream all in one package.

Rold Gold/Sabra Hummus dippers, Rold Gold pretzel dippers
The idea of product combinations through packaging to maximize convenience is a growing trend.

The global pretzel market is set to grow at a CAGR of 2.58% during the period 2016-20, according to Research and Markets’ Global Pretzel Market report. Changing lifestyles and the growth of on-line shopping have made available a wider variety of snacks. The success of the snacking industry is mainly driven by busy lifestyles with families looking for alternative meal solutions and increased snacking between meals.

“I think our industry provides a wide variety of snacking solutions to keep both adults and kids satisfied,” Mr. Hooker said. “It’s important that we fuel consumers in between their main meals.”

For the snack industry the biggest opportunity for growth is likely the better-for-you segment. The biggest challenge is balancing R.&D. dollars with success.

“Eighty per cent of new items fail, so over-investing because of a new trend is risky,” Mr. Hooker said. “We have to balance taking care of those mainstream consumers by giving them the quality products they expect from Snyder’s of Hanover and Lance, while also providing options for those consumers looking for better-for-you products.”