While many consumers snack to indulge and escape from the stresses of everyday life, more are looking to do so with a snack they can still feel good about eating. 

“From yogurt and chips to gummies and chocolate, better-for-you (BFY) and better-for-the-planet are appealing to consumers,” said Melissa Abbott, vice president of retainer services, Hartman Group. “We are seeing rising interest in claims ranging from organic, grain-free, upcycled, gluten-free, plant-rich, fair-trade, paleo, gut-friendly, regeneratively grown and fermented.”

For example, Quinn Snacks, Boulder, Colo., recently relaunched its Pop-at-Home Popcorn Kernels with single-origin corn kernels sourced from a farm practicing regenerative agriculture. The company also earned a “Climate Friendly” label on its snacks’ packages from HowGood, an assessment that measures greenhouse gas emissions from food products.

“Transparency is a huge priority for us at Quinn Snacks,” said Kristy Lewis, company founder. “When you know where your food comes from and how it’s grown, you make food differently, you make it better.”

Similarly, Once Again Nut Butter, Nunda, NY, known for its sustainably sourced nut and seed butters, entered the snack category with gluten-free, vegan, kosher and non-GMO project verified graham cracker sandwiches. 

“These single-serve snacks are part of our Honest in Trade sustainability program, which seeks to improve quality of life through creating and sustaining environmentally, economically and socially fulfilling partnerships from farm to fork,” said Gael Orr, director of marketing for the company. 

And Off the Eaten Path, a brand of Plano-Texas based Frito-Lay offering snacks made with peas, chickpeas and beans, has piloted industrially compostable packaging. 

“We see these new, industrially compostable Off The Eaten Path bags as a way for consumers to help forge a new path forward in creating a world where packaging never becomes waste,” said Denise Lefebvre, senior vice president, R&D, foods, PepsiCo, Purchase, NY.

A growing number of brands are also capitalizing on both the BFY and nostalgia trends, crafting healthier alternatives to some of the biggest snack staples. 

PeaTos, Los Angeles, for example, a line of plant-based snacks made with peas, is challenging popular Frito-Lay brands like Funyuns, Doritos and Cheetos. PeaTos are higher in fiber and protein and lower in calories but still aim to maintain the full sensory experience of those traditional snacks consumers love, said Nick Desai, founder and chief executive officer, PeaTos.

“In our category there’s really one dominant player with an effective monopoly, so we decided to create better versions of America’s favorite sancks by improving on the products of the most successful brands of that dominant player,” he said.

Following that game plan, Chubby Snacks, Los Angeles, has emerged and marketed itself as a BFY answer to Smucker’s popular Uncrustables brand. Chubby Snacks’ peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are made with organic, whole wheat bread and have 2 or 3 grams of sugar per sandwich, using medjool dates and monk fruit for sweetness instead of refined sugar. The brand surged from roughly 30 California stores in January of 2022 to more than 550 nationwide by the end of the year.

“[Uncrustables] is having double-digit growth, which means this market is expanding,” said Dillon Ceglio, founder and CEO of Chubby Snacks. “All we’re doing is providing another option for the consumer. We’re really excited about being able to not only compete against them but also just ultimately move this category forward.”

This article is an excerpt from the February 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Snacks, click here.