The plant-powered buzz circulating in the snack industry has not dampened consumer interest in protein-rich pork rinds.

This flourishing category grew a whopping 24.3% in dollar sales for the 52 weeks ended June 16, 2019, in the U.S. snack market, according to Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm.

“It’s an unbelievable story fueled by the keto discussion,” said Mark Singleton, vice-president of sales and marketing, Rudolph Foods, Lima, Ohio. “The keto diet has inspired growth in a number of categories, but where else can you find a snack with 8 grams of protein, zero MSG, lower fat and sodium with great taste?”

Dietary trends like Atkins, paleo and now ketogenic have fueled double-digit growth for pork rinds. These diets emphasize protein-packed snacks with simple ingredients bringing new groups of consumers to the category. From 2016 to 2018, Innova Market Insights found that introductions of new products marketed as keto-friendly grew 400%, and those marketed as paleo saw a 72% increase.

“While pork rinds are a tasty, crunchy snack accepted in low-carb diets, a wider segment of consumers is simply looking for protein-rich snacks, which reaches far beyond trendy diets,” said Kevin Foltz, director, consumer content, Wise Foods, Berwick, Pa. “Seeing this trend, Wise recently acquired Carolina Country Snacks brand that focuses on a multi-format line of pork rinds.”

Country Snacks pork rinds span a variety of flavors and formats like Traditional Hot BBQ pork rinds and Pork Skin Strips with Red Pepper. Customers may satisfy their desired crunch factor and choose from pork rinds ranging from tender to “jaw buster.”

Pork rinds are popping up in food service channels as well. They can be found in restaurants and more than 50 sports stadiums nationwide, served as appetizers, sides with sandwiches and as a replacement for chips to dip with sauces.

Last year, Rudolph Foods’ team brought pork rinds to more than 25 trade shows, wine and tequila festivals, and road races across America.

“Consumers tell us that the high protein, good fats and zero carbs position pork rinds as a ‘keto light’ version of traditional chips,” Mr. Singleton said. “All we have to do is get the bags in their hands, and people are sold on the better-for-you claims and the great flavor of our products.”

New flavors have the potential to keep products relevant. This year, Rudolph Foods added Thai Curry and Cuban Mojo varieties to its signature Southern Recipe Small Batch line.

“We are always making our products better, cleaner and tastier, and we wanted to create an exciting, complex flavor on a crunchy bacon base,” Mr. Singleton said.

Minneapolis-based General Mills’ Epic pork skins portfolio launched new Cinnamon Churro Baked Pork Rinds following the success of Epic’s Maple Bacon Pork Cracklings. Epic’s Jalapeño Pork Cracklings add a little heat to the line. Both new flavors hit stores in June.

“Another big trend is the move to the single-serve format, along with the growth of multipacks for on-the-go eating,” said Bob Clark, vice-president of marketing, Herr Foods, Inc., Nottingham, Pa.

With consumers feeling pressed for time and living more on-the-go than ever, they are looking for convenient and portable formats. Pork rinds not only offer that, but they also offer an additional punch of protein.

This article originally appeared in SNAC International's 2019 Official State of the Industry.