Consumers are continuing to broaden their concepts of snack foods beyond potato chips and cookies.

Consumers are continuing to broaden their concepts of snack foods beyond potato chips and cookies, and food companies and packaging manufacturers are responding. Driving expansion in the snack food category is increased preference for healthy snacks that excite consumers and fit into their health-conscious lifestyles. As the 2016 Food Packaging Trends & Advances report, produced by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies notes, the snack food market is expected to grow faster than other categories in the food packaging segment, driven by demand for more single-serve and convenience options.

According to Technomic's 2016 Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report, the global savory snacks market is expected to reach $175.85 billion by 2021, with a CAGR of more than 5%.[1] And 60% of consumers want additional health benefits beyond the food’s inherent nutrition.[2]

Busy shoppers view snacks as mini-meals and are snacking more than ever before, perhaps because there are more healthy snacks available today. Customers are enjoying eggs, meat snacks and pairings of small beverage and breakfast items as snacks. As a result, snacks are moving into the fresh meat and produce sections for easy access and cross-merchandising. Technomic’s research discovered that 41% of consumers agree that any food can be a snack if the portion size is small. The report predicted that consumption will increase for all-day breakfast fare during snack occasions.[3]

Brands can respond to portability needs by offering smaller portion packs for superfoods, meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and dips. For example, Thailand’s Charoen Pokphand Foods is launching a chicken snack in the U.K. under the brand Taste Inc. in response to increased consumer demands for high-protein, healthy, guilt-free snacking. Pre-cooked and packaged in flexible pouches, the 100% chargrilled chicken fillets are individually wrapped for on-the-go snacking. Ready-to-eat hardboiled eggs, like those manufactured by Almark Foods, are a similar option for vegetarians looking for a protein-rich to-go snack.

Consumers looking for healthy alternatives to classic fried potato chips are sampling options that include veggie chips, roasted and baked chips and popcorn. The new roasted products category grew 18% during 2014-15, driven by roasted coconut kale chips, oven-roasted sweet potato chips and a wide variety of roasted nuts, flavor production company FONA International reported. 3 The beet root chips market is valued at $6.2 million, and the veggie chip market has reached $466 million, representing a 17% annual growth.

Brands expanding into the alternative chip category can use packaging to communicate ingredients and sourcing to consumers in simple and effective ways. For example, HIPPEAS, a line of organic chickpea puffs, launched in the United States in 2016 to great success with the slogan “Give Peas a Chance.” Featuring bright colors, a playful smile, a vegan claim and a clean design, the HIPPEAS package was designed to appeal to modern, clean-eating consumers.

Fresh fruit companies also are using innovative packaging tools to get onto the radar of health-conscious, on-the-go snackers. Fruit giant Dole recently launched an award-winning Go Berries! single-serving strawberry package, ventilated for freshness and easy rinsing, which makes strawberries an easy, portable snack. After the popularity of the strawberry packs, Dole plans to expand the line to include blueberries. Another example is sliced apple brand Crunch Pak, which launched new multipacks in March to increase convenience for consumers. Crunch Pak’s single-portion bags of apple slices were previously sold in a larger clamshell rigid package. The snacks are now available in larger, more breathable bags with handles, allowing for storage in places the hard clamshell would not have fit. 

Snacking has been on the rise for several years, but the last two years have marked a particularly notable growth, with 83% of consumers in 2016 saying they snack daily, compared to 76% in 2014.3 Many new advances in snack packaging will be on display at PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2017 (Sept. 25-27; Las Vegas Convention Center). The show serves as the largest event in North America for packaging this year. To see the latest award-winning packaging innovations, visit the Showcase of Packaging Innovations sponsored by The Dow Chemical Co. located in the Lower South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. In addition, free Innovation Stage on-floor education sessions will inform attendees about ground-breaking technologies to meet consumer demands.

Co-located with Healthcare Packaging EXPO, the show will feature solutions from more than 2,000 exhibitors and will be attended by 30,000 packaging industry professionals. Learn more, and register, at