It’s no secret that snacks of all stripes are big business. From small bites of sweets to refrigerated, grab-and-go meats and cheeses to new takes on classic chips, consumers are clamoring for a wide variety of snacking options.
In fact, Americans ate 386 billion ready-to-eat snacks in 2018 alone, according to a study from The NPD Group, which also showed that snacking is growing across the day and even at meals.
“Snack foods continue to evolve both as between-meal snacks and as part of main meals,” NPD Group’s David Portalatin said in a news release. “Each of these snack food roles is changing in different ways in reaction to Americans’ desire for balance, portable snack foods, and holistic wellness.”
Additionally, the study found that indulgent yet healthful snacks, and striking a balance between the two, are top of mind for today’s consumers. “It’s no longer about depriving yourself of something you enjoy eating,” Portalatin said. “Today it’s about giving yourself permission to eat indulgent snack foods in moderation.”
Today’s snack foods run the gamut, as do the messages behind them.
Consumers don’t necessarily think to check the refrigerated section for snacks, but more companies are making the move from store shelves. Old standards such as yogurt or grab-and-go meat and cheese offer snackers a healthful, portable option that can be easily displayed in front-of-store cases.
Additionally, brands like Kind are branching out into refrigerated and frozen snack bars. “It has enabled us to expand our eating occasions and bring new innovation to existing Kind fans, as well as introduce Kind to frozen/refrigerated bar users for the first time,” Kind CEO Mike Barkley told Food Navigator of the company’s new product line.
The NPD Group’s findings showed that indulgent snack food is still an important piece of the puzzle for both brands and consumers. While many indulgent snacks are consumed in the evening, NPD found that they’re also growing in the morning daypart.
"A wide range of savory, sweet, and better-for-you snack foods are now permissible in almost any situation," said Portalatin. "Snack food manufacturers have figured out ways to offer the permission to enjoy."
Today’s more healthful snack options encompass a wide array of claims and ingredients. Free-from, non-GMO, plant-based and many other types of foods are among those attracting today’s health-conscious consumer.
Nut-based snacks, for example, are hitting a certain sweet spot with snackers. The National Peanut Board’s Ryan Lepicier talked with Food Ingredients First about Jif’s new snack options, as well as others. “Their new Power Ups come in a variety of flavors and formats like clusters, stacked granola bars and soft baked bars – and all with peanut butter,” he said of the Jif variety. “Meanwhile, we’re seeing new flavors and formats for snack peanuts. Planters new Crunchers are crispy coated peanuts in flavors like Cinnamon Brown Sugar and Hot n’ Spicy,”
Likewise, The Good Bean recently released protein-packed, chocolate-covered chickpeas, while Utz released Good Health Creamy Onion & Chive Veggie Chips, which are verified by the Non-GMO Project and are gluten-free.
Bringing in purpose
With shoppers increasingly wanting to hear the stories behind where their food comes from, as well as who makes it, companies are incorporating a personal side into their products. Snack brand Dang Foods recently rebranded with new packaging that includes Thai writing and the tagline “Asian-American snack brand.”
According to Dang Foods founder Vincent Kitirattragarn, he and his brother decided to tell a better story about their Thai heritage while also nodding to it on their packaging.
The Laughing Cow also recently rebranded to bring a more “uplifting” brand mission to its customers. The company’s flagship cheese wedges were reformulated and are now accompanied by the tagline “choose to laugh at life.”
"We want to inspire people to choose to laugh at life,” said brand director Johnni Rodgers in a news release. “That's our vision and what drives us forward every day."
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