Otis Spunkmeyer adapted its “No Funky Stuff” line for c-stores through smaller packaging and new flavors.

Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice-president and practice leader, Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), said innovation includes two types of reinvention: commercial innovation and new categories. Commercial innovation is the expansion of a current brand or product for emerging channels and includes channel-specific innovation to club, expansion into urban stores and distribution into c-stores.

Consumer patterns can help create new categories. Traditionally, oats were eaten as a type of cereal in the morning, Ms. Lyons Wyatt said. Due in part to oats’ popularity, manufacturers decided to keep up with consumers’ busy lifestyle by turning the breakfast food into a bar that could be eaten anytime and anywhere. From there, the reinvention of oat products expanded to breakfast biscuits, which took on new flavors and textures.

These areas of reinvention are parts of an innovation strategy that can result in either incremental sales or winning market share in existing categories.
Combining new flavors and textures can revitalize interest in a snack.

However, Ms. Lyons Wyatt shared three factors that food manufacturers must consider before modifying a product: consumer needs, macro trends and convenience.

One of the most critical components for the decision to reinvent a product is keeping up with and understanding consumers’ latest snacking demands. These can range from better-for-you to indulgent snacks. For example, Ms. Lyons Wyatt said she sees the trend of combining multiple types of snacks, fruits, vegetables and nuts happening across the board as manufacturers cross food groups to create snack packs and bars.

“There are so many these days because they deliver on many consumer needs: convenience, vitamins and minerals, other nutrients and micro-nutrients,” she said.

Trends such as new flavors, health and wellness, and indulgence are running through revolving doors: they can emerge quickly, disappear even faster and then come back again. The mash-up of textures and types of snacks — specifically the sweet with the salty or savory — isn’t new, but it’s a trend that’s maintaining momentum. And many companies are taking note.
Frito-Lay's Crunch Nuts contains roasted peanuts wrapped in shells made from Doritos Nacho Cheese or Cool Ranch.

The Kellogg Company, Battle Creek, Mich., evaluates its consumer feedback and looks at evolving trends when deciding which products to reinvent, how to develop them and when.

“We monitor trends across the food industry and noticed an increased demand for more food mash-ups along with the growing demand for popcorn and pretzel flavors,” said Jeff Delonis, marketing director, Cheez-It. “With those two insights in mind, we decided it was time to offer something new to our consumers and reinvent our Duoz product line.”

Cheez-It Duoz, a mash-up of two Cheez-It flavors, has been around since 2008, but to stay on trend, the company is adding another type of snack to the snacking experience. Featuring the familiar cheese crackers, the new Cheez-It Duoz will mix in salty cheddar pretzels within the Cheddar Jack and Sharp Cheddar Pretzel variety and sweet caramel popcorn in its Caramel Popcorn and Cheddar variety. From this line that’s been very popular among millennial consumers, Kellogg expects its newest Duoz products to further increase that demand.

In November, the Frito-Lay division at PepsiCo, Inc., Purchase, N.Y., introduced Doritos Crunch Nuts, which consist of roasted peanuts wrapped in shells made from Doritos Nacho Cheese or Cool Ranch. From there, the company developed Doritos Crunch Mix, a new product for its Doritos Mix line that includes Crunch Nuts, pretzel bites, corn sticks and more. Snacks like these give consumers a multi-sensorial experience and include products they already enjoy with new ones to explore.