Tom Howe, president of Baptista’s Bakery, Franklin, Wis., referred to the emerging category of snack crossovers as “nouveau snacks” that not only offer different textures but also more whole grains and robust flavors. Recently purchased by Snyder’s-Lance, Baptista’s specializes in producing such products, including a line of patented fried, dippable snack chips that contain rice, beans and a host of other ingredients. Mr. Howe noted that millennials — the 75 million Gen Y-ers between 18 and 35 — are driving sales.

“They’re looking for more than just conventional snacks,” he explained. “They’re looking beyond conventional. They’re looking for protein, different shapes and different textures, and they use them with dips, salsa and even as part of a meal or as the meal itself.”

New points of distribution are also boosting sales. Mr. Howe said a “tsunami” of nouveau and hybrid snacks is not only engulfing the salted snack and cracker aisles in the center of the store but also flooding endcaps throughout the perimeter. The healthy eating trend has been around for decades, but Mr. Howe asserted that consumption is shaking up the industry like an earthquake.

Despite the natural disaster comparison, Mr. Howe stressed that the nouveau snack movement is no catastrophe for the salty snack industry. Rather, it’s an opportunity that manufacturers and marketers need to seize in order to grow their base. They need to get out and surf that huge wave of change.