As the preferences of snackers have evolved, so has the definition of better-for-you snacks. Consumers are interested in products that are greener and better for the planet.

“Better-for-you 20 years ago meant low-fat or low-salt,” said Malcolm McAlpine, business manager for branded snacks and confections in foodservice for Mondelez International, Chicago. “Now that umbrella encompasses a lot more things. It’s ethically sourced raw materials and ingredients. It’s clean label and non-GMO — all of that. That trend is going to continue as well. People want healthier, but they also want indulgent products. Believe me, we see that. But they want the indulgent product to be more clean label.”

That also extends to the packaging for snacks. Mr. McAlpine said that he’s seen tremendous strides in packaging by extending the shelf life of products as well as the rise in sustainable packaging.

Mr. McAlpine said he thinks that the number of new products will only continue as the world works its way through the pandemic.

“Innovation has slowed up a bit because of COVID, but you take a walk down the grocery store aisle and see how many bars that you have access to,” he said. “You almost see new products every week.”

The last couple of years have produced unprecedented challenges for snack makers.

“Right now is probably a time when the challenges seem the greatest with supply chain, staffing and freight,” said Barry Levin, CEO of Snak King Corp., City of Industry, Calif. “Right now is the most difficult time I’ve seen in my career.”

Although research and development may have suffered lately because of the challenges brought on by the pandemic, he prefers to take a positive view of the situation.

“I’m optimistic that the staffing challenges are going to improve,” he added.

Justin Spannuth, vice president and chief operating officer at Unique Snacks, Reading, Pa., doesn’t expect any reverse of the situation in the foreseeable future.

“I think the shock and awe are going away,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s the new normal right now. We’re starting to see a plateau. We’re still getting price increases. They’re not as often or as much, but we’re still getting price increases.”

One thing the snack industry agrees on is that Americans will remain committed snackers. And that’s great for manufacturers, whether they’re providing healthful snacks, indulgent treats or a bit of both.

“One hundred years ago there weren’t a lot of snack items,” Mr. McAlpine said. “It’s exploded over the last 100 years, but we’ve seen a big expansion in the last 20 years. I’m very bullish. I only see it continuing to increase.”

This article is an excerpt from the April 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Centennial Report: The Future of Snacking, click here.