While healthier foods and beverages have been trending for several years, these types of products have become even more relevant to consumers since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The snacks industry has long been dominated by legacy brands, but many startups and challenger brands are disrupting the category.
“A key factor is the easy access to information,” said Nick Desai, founder and CEO of pea-based snack brand PeaTos. “The proliferation of the internet and tools like Google have made information on food products and their link to our health and well-being a mainstream topic of discussion which led food companies and regulators to revisit and upgrade their way of thinking.”
As consumers thought more about health, they also found that functional foods and beverages could be used to address specific health concerns and boost overall wellness.
“Innovative food and beverage brands — many of whom were born online — are more holistic lifestyle brands,” said Shaunak Amin, founder and CEO of SnackMagic. The customizable snack and swag service recently launched its consumer packaged goods data insights platform, CPGpulse.
“Taste is always king”
Although consumers are seeking better-for-you snack alternatives, almost no is willing to sacrifice delicious flavors in their new options.
“Taste is always king,” said Amin. “Brands should strike the right balance between marrying good taste with function, innovative brand messaging and sustainability.”
Product taste is also a chief concern for PeaTos, which recently reformulated its line of snacks to be dairy-free, also making the brand entirely vegan.
“PeaTos has always looked to bridge the gap between our desire for tasty and fun snacks with our desire to be better about nutrition, which sometimes seem to be competing interests,” said Desai. “We want to eliminate that trade-off.”
Amin reports that SnackMagic’s CPGpulse data shows that customers are enthusiastic about trying new food products, but most shoppers are still seeking out the most common categories: cookies, confections and savory crunchy brands. He cited the top savory brands, according to the platform, as Kibo Foods, Air Cheese and Love Corn, with Kibo’s chickpea chip as a specific example of an innovative product in an already well-known category.
“It’s important to explore new flavors but have a familiar form factor,” said Amin.
Data insights aid snacks brands
Desai reports that PeaTos has experienced growth during the pandemic, and many new customers have connected with the brand online, which has allowed for more frequent and direct communication. This contact helps the brand continue to deliver products that consumers are seeking.
In order to help meet the needs and desires of snacking shoppers, CPGpulse offers brands – as well as retail buyers and investors – information on several topics, such as first-party commerce performance, reviews and the ability to move product.
“All this combined helps brands use our platform to experiment quickly with new flavors and marketing attributes,” according to Amin.
He added that the company also has the capability to do A/B testing with prototype packaging as well as product testing via its SnackDrop sampling arm, allowing brands to make changes before larger-scale manufacturing and marketing efforts.
“Consumers are turning to their food and drink as fuel to get through their busy lives and brands have taken notice,” said Amin.
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