RESTON, VA — Today, consumers’ taste for processed snack foods is waning as the desire for fresh, organic and minimally processed options takes center stage. In fact, the global organic snacks market is set to see a compounded annual growth rate of nearly 18% through 2021, according to market research firm Technavio. With the growth of organic foods amid health-conscious consumers, it’s no wonder that premium snacks are often synonymous with natural, non-G.M.O. and preservative-free ingredients.

Similarly, premium snacks that are free of potential allergens like gluten, dairy and nuts cater to more specific consumer demands concerning health and wellness. These categories create an opportunity for manufacturers to not only produce foods with different, perhaps more delicate ingredients, but also for the finished product to take on different characteristics such as looking and feeling more homemade than ever before. However, today’s shift toward premium goods presents challenges for the processors of baked foods and snacks.

Oftentimes, natural ingredients have shorter life spans and therefore pose the risk of spoiling faster. For processors to execute production within a shorter window of time, they must switch to handling and sanitation mechanisms to both ensure efficiency and prevent cross-contamination. Producing these foods can require an investment in separate working tools that are designed to maintain the integrity of the ingredient.

For example, specific wash down equipment may be needed to expedite the production process and ensure one ingredient is not transferred via the machinery to other batches of product — leading to potentially harmful cross-contamination. In terms of sanitation, washing sequence, water treatment and pest control are factors to consider in order to maintain the integrity of organic, natural and free-from foods.

Another challenge lies in scaling up. Brands must focus on their long-term footprint based on growth projections to create a supply chain and a production facility that helps them meet goals for growth. Processors will need the proper equipment — often automated solutions with user-friendly Human Machine Interfaces (HMI) or technologies with modular components — that provide easy changeover and multiple handling capabilities to maneuver differently sized and shaped products.

As baking and snack companies evolve operations to meet consumer demand for allergen-free, non-G.M.O. and organic options, implementing solutions to enhance flexibility, ease sanitation and segregate allergens will help them deliver a safe product from the line to the consumer.

Processors seeking snack food solutions can visit ProFood Tech, a comprehensive food and beverage processing event showcasing cutting-edge technologies and innovative solutions. Powered by PACK EXPO, Koelnmesse and the International Dairy Foods Association — this biennial show in Chicago from March 26-28 brings the industry together and addresses the key issues facing food and beverage processing operators in North America.

Registration for ProFood Tech is $30 until March 1, after which the price increases to $100. For more information and to register online, visit