The Supply Side: Is snacking the new health craze?

story by Kim Souza
ksouza@thecitywire.com

Editor’s note: The Supply Side section of The City Wire focuses on the companies, organizations, issues and individuals engaged in providing products and services to retailers. The Supply Side is managed by The City Wire and sponsored by Propak Logistics.

There’s a major shift at work in the packaged foods segment with snack items leading the charge. The shift is fueled by Millennials and Gen X consumers who aren’t in line with previous generations who heeded mom’s advice about snacking between meals.

The global snack food market is expected to exceed $300 billion in 2015, and IRI Worldwide reports that U.S. snack sales rose 2.8% last year, led by better-for-you products. Sally Lyons Watt, an executive at IRI Worldwide, recently described the snack category as a “competitive shark tank,” adding that snacking habits have evolved and other categories are benefiting.

Research by NPD Group also indicates that the more consumers snack, the healthier are their eating behaviors – an indication contrary to conventional wisdom. NPD found that that more consumers view snacking as one way to improve healthy eating habits.  Consumers following the healthiest diets snack twice as often as those with less healthy diets, noted the November 2012 report. Consumers with the healthiest diets consume 36% more snack meals a year than the average consumer, according to Snacking in America.

The report by NPD identified and examined the consumers who drive current and future snack consumption. Researched found those following a “most healthy” diet eat a wider variety of healthy snacks such as fruit, yogurt, and bars. 

“We are no longer as averse to snacking as we used to be – instead, snacking may be viewed as one way to improve healthy eating habits,” said Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. “This way of thinking about snacking provides an opportunity for manufacturers to make health and wellness innovation part of their product development and marketing strategy.”

Seifer noted that in the 1980s the vast majority of Americans said they avoid snacking, but that sentiment has shifted. He said this doesn’t mean that snacking is still an indulgent activity but it’s become an opportunity to provide functional benefits or a way to get desired nutrients. He said protein bars have become popular because consumers understand that eating more protein helps stave off hunger and curbs appetites for sweets.

“And while the vast majority of our snack meals happen between main meals, the movement toward consuming snack foods during main meals should not go unnoticed. This time frame for snack foods currently represents about 22% of snack food eatings, which is up from 20% in 2010. While two percentage points might sound small at first, consider that there are more than 300 million people in this country and this increase represents more than 3.6 billion additional eatings,” Seifer noted in his NPD blog post.

The better-for-you health trend was evident in the new snacks recently unveiled at the Sweets & Snacks Expo held in Chicago on May 20. Quinoa, Greek-yogurt cakes and gluten-free pretzels were among the new products showcased in this year’s expo. It’s clear from the ingredients lists that product developers are being more health conscience as they formulate snacks with chia seeds, kale, sea salt and pomegranate. 

Following were some of the new products unveiled.

• Hostess Greek Yogurt Cakes
Hostess Brands is set to launch a line of snack cakes made with Greek yogurt, fruit and honey in apple cinnamon swirl and strawberry swirl varieties. The snack cakes capitalize on the popularity of Greek yogurt made with 25% less sugar, sweetened with honey and real fruit.

• Mary's Gone Crackers Everything Pretzels
Mary’s Gone Crackers expanded its vegan and gluten-free offerings to include a new variety of pretzels. Made with brown rice, quinoa, amaranth and millet, as well as flax, sesame, chia and poppy seeds, the Everything Pretzels include flavors from onion, garlic, sea salt and herbs. The product will be available beginning this summer.

• Snack Factory Greek Yogurt Crunch Pretzel Crisps
Synder’s Lance, debuted Greek Yogurt Crunch Pretzel Crisps from its Snack Factory division. The pretzels are coated in tangy Greek yogurt, and the product extends the brand’s line of thin, crunchy pretzel snacks, which also includes peanut butter and dark chocolate dipped varieties.

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• The Popcorn Factory Lite Works Popcorn
Wasabi soy, dill pickle and sriracha are among the flavored pop corn products unveiled by the Popcorn Factory at this year’s expo. The new reduced-calorie ready-to-eat popcorn line contains half the fat of the brand’s traditional varieties.

• Oberto Chicken Strips
For jerky lovers seeking a lighter protein alternative, there is a new chicken variety from Oberto Brands. Flavored with smoky sweet barbecue or spicy buffalo Oberto Chicken Strips are made from cage-free chicken breast that is slow-cooked for nine hours in a patent-pending process. The company said it spent three years developing this product line that has score high consumer testing.

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