Enrobed pretzezls
When it comes to the highly competitive snack industry, it’s a constant battle for share of stomach, especially for the pretzel category.

When it comes to the highly competitive snack industry, it’s a constant battle for share of stomach.

Take the impulse-driven pretzel category. Skyrocketing sales of ready-to-eat (R.-T.-E.) popcorn may have dampened a bit of pretzels’ momentum, especially as a more healthful alternative in the snack aisle. That may be partly because of shifting consumer preferences. Additionally, some savvy marketers tout R.-T.-E. popcorn in terms of calories per cup on the front of the package instead of calories per serving found on the back.

Nutritionists claim such front-of-packaging marketing allows producers to promote that some R.-T.-E. popcorn has 15 to 20 calories per cup while it actually has around 130 calories per serving, which is similar to a serving of pretzels. Sales of R.-T.-E. popcorn/caramel corn jumped 17% to $1,213.3 million for the 52-week period ended Sept. 4, according to I.R.I., a Chicago-based market research firm. In comparable data, I.R.I. said pretzels slipped 2% to $1,185.5 million. However, partnering pretzels with items such as cheese snacks, nuts or candy has stoked sales. Nutritional snack/trail mix sales rose 6% to $1,125.6 million, according to I.R.I. Moreover, coating pretzels in yogurt or chocolate is bolstering the pretzel market.

According to I.R.I., chocolate-covered salted snacks rose 18% to $197.1 million. I.R.I. said the category leader, DeMet’s Candy Co., saw sales rise 25% to $52.3 million during the past year. Marissa Foray, brand manager for Flipz, which was acquired in 2003 by DeMet’s Candy Co., noted limited-time offers and seasonal items can create new consumption occasions and spark incremental sales.

A little innovation goes a long way, even in an established category like pretzels.