Consumers snack more than ever, according to a poll published in Snacking Occasions Consumer Trend Report released in March 2012, by Technomic, Inc, Chicago. Projections put global snack food sales at $334 billion by 2015, with a particular jump in consumer demand for salty snacks — rising 6% over 2011 to $4.11 billion in 2015 — according to IRI, a Chicago-based research firm.

The snack industry also experienced some other significant increases in key categories. For instance, potato chips sales are projected to reach $11.2 billion by 2015, according to BMC Information services, New York. It also estimated tortilla chips sales are expected to reach $7 billion by 2015. Moreover, IRI reported pretzel sales increased 12.3%, outselling cheese snacks in 2012.

A multicultural flavor trend is emerging as well. Snacks with international flair including options featuring sweet potatoes, seaweed, lentils, chickpeas and black beans continue to rise in popularity as do those that ­include vegetable ingredients.

As snack marketers appeal to consumers’ expanding palates, they’re bringing new products to market — and facing the challenge of differentiating their offerings on increasingly crowded store shelves. Just this April, Omaha, NE-based ConAgra Foods’ Orville Redenbacher brand launched Pop Crunch, a ready-to-eat air-popped snack said to have half the fat of potato chips, and Frito-Lay, Plano, TX,, released Lay’s Wavy Garlic & Sea Salt-flavored potato chips. These products represent just the tip of the iceberg of new snacks hitting the consumer market so far this year.

Packaging must stand out, appeal to target shoppers and articulate product benefits and brand value. It’s critical to the success of new snacks. The successful launch of Ruffles’ Natural brand demonstrates what can happen when all the right elements come together.

Frito-Lay first released the Ruffles’ Natural line in 2002 to meet consumer demands for more wholesome ingredients. In 2011, the company rolled out new packaging for the line, and between 2011 and 2013, sales swelled by 314.5%. The new bags used a matte finish film and ­clearer identification of ingredients through the use of icons. Additionally, the new package illustrated the connection between the finished product and natural ingredients by depicting the chips sliced right from the potato. These changes further the brand’s effort to clearly communicate product value by unmistakably positioning nutritional benefits and installing a visual element that consumers associate with more positive eating habits.

Brand owners striving to achieve similar success in getting products from the store shelf to the shopping cart should plan to attend Pack Expo Las Vegas 2013 at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Sept. 23-25. The event offers total systems solutions from 1,600 exhibitors. As the largest, most comprehensive resource for packaging and processing innovation in North America in this year, Pack Expo will take a customer-centric approach to make it faster and easier for snack manufacturers to find the technologies they need.

For snack processors seeking solutions to help products stand out on store shelves, there’s the Brand Zone, located in the Upper South Hall. This area will house innovative materials and containers as well as package printing technologies, inks and design resources. Elsewhere at the show, attendees in the baking and snack industries will find solutions for enhancing product freshness, extending shelf life and achieving sustainability goals.

The Processing Zone, another special grouping of exhibitors, brings together processing and packaging equipment suppliers. It will provide a starting point for bakers and snack makers seeking total systems solutions that improve line efficiency, reduce energy consumption and ensure compliance with proposed Food Safety Modernization Act regulations.

To speed the sourcing of innovations, the SMB FastTrack program will connect qualifying attendees from small- and medium-sized manufacturers with packaging and processing exhibitors that offer special incentives, programs and pricing options to fit their needs.

Finally, the connections at Pack Expo will make a difference in attendees’ businesses. In the Baking-Snack Break lounge, professionals can network, meet with suppliers and speak with experts about packaging- and processing-related challenges and trends. And presentations of the latest manufacturing technologies on the Innovation Stage will provide yet more resources for food processors seeking insight on eye-catching packaging solutions and how to implement them on their lines.

For additional information or to register for the 2013 Pack Expo, visit                  

Tom Egan is vice-president of industry services for PMMI, which hosts the Pack Expo trade shows.