Grocers Help Consumers Find the Right Wellness-Minded Snacks
While most grocers still have a center store aisle lined with traditional salty snacks and cookies, consumers are demanding more out of their snacks, looking for things like protein and whole grains. Frequent snacking has replaced traditional mealtimes for many, and folks want more food value in their grazing.
“Consumers are snacking on an average of 2.5 snacks per day in the U.S., and the snacking universe is far-reaching, encompassing many categories throughout the store,” concurs Sally Lyons Wyatt, EVP and practice leader for Chicago-based IRI. “Consumers are driving this by either snacking on nontraditional categories, such as hard-boiled eggs, and/or the expansion within traditional categories.”
According to Chicago-based Mintel, 55 percent of people now say that they snack two to three times a day, compared with 50 percent of respondents in 2015. And Nielsen data pegs the individual-snacking category at $33 billion in the United States.
A Nosh Above
A host of new healthy snack products were rolled out and sampled at this year’s Natural Products Expo West, including the following:
- Crunchmaster Vegetable Cheese Crisps, from TH Foods
- New flavors of Angie’s BoomChickaPop ready-to-eat popcorn, from Conagra Brands
- Lantana Strawberry Hummus
- Grain-free coconut-based granolas, from GrandyOats
- Imagine Yogurt Crisps and Off the Eaten Path sweet potato and veggie crisps, both from Frito-Lay
“For core snacking, it has received an even greater boost in sales — up 1.9 percent in dollar sales — from the diversification of benefits across the categories,” observes Wyatt. “This may be from added benefits, such as protein or fiber, and the absence or less of other ingredients, like non-GMO.”
Hummus chips, lentil chips and other types of plant-based salty snacks are now commanding attention and room on the shelf. Examples include the recently introduced line of Peatos, from Los Angeles-based Snack it Forward, crunchy puffed snacks high in protein and fiber, and Cassava Root Chips, from Needham, Mass.-based Plant Snacks, made from root vegetables and free of the “big eight” allergens.
The health attributes of such snacks are a major driver, according to some industry experts.
“Probiotic-enhanced salty snacks are a huge trend at present, as consumers continue to indulge in self-care, with a 360-degree approach that also impacts on their attitudes to snacking,” says Nicole Prefer, director of strategy for Vault49, a New York-based brand design agency that has worked in the snack sector. “Snack brands are stepping in to provide solutions with probiotic-enhanced nuts, chips and pretzels that help aid in digestion.”
She cites the example of Richmond, Calif.-based Living Intentions, which offers an activated Thai curry superfood nut blend with live probiotics.
Typically merchandised in center store and impulse areas, nutrition bars have become a quintessential snack for busy consumers, for health, flavor and portability reasons. The bar segment remains a focus of R&D activity, too, with new products launched almost weekly, including hybrid bars. Case in point: a savory snack bar made with real cheese, recently unveiled by Sonoma Creamery, in Sonoma, Calif.
Meanwhile, given the popularity of protein-rich diets, the meat snack segment has been hot in recent years, and innovations keep coming.
“The meat snacks sector is evolving, too, with better-for-you ranges proving popular,” notes Vault49’s Prefer. “Among the reasons for meat snacks’ success is that they offer a quick and easy snack with portion control which [is] high in protein and satiates hunger.”
Beyond traditional jerky and meat sticks, the category is also spawning hybrid products, such as PowerBar’s new Jerky & Nut Bar, and Epic’s bars that combine animal proteins with nuts and seeds.
Prefer points to other interesting types of meat snacks, such as Boulder, Colo.-based Wilde Brands LLC’s chicken chips, exhibited at the recent Natural Products Expo West trade show, which claim to be the first-to-market salty snack that has the taste and texture of a potato-based chip, but with clean ingredients and protein instead of carbohydrates.
The changed-up form of meat snacks is likewise showcased in the new Beef Thins line from The New Primal, based in North Charleston, S.C. The thinly sliced cuts of grass-fed and -finished beef jerky are touted as easier to bite and chew than traditional jerky and fit into high-protein regimes like the Whole30 diet and the Paleo eating plan.
“Our goal with the Beef Thins is to bring a new type of meat snack to market that not only caters to the particularities of Whole30, but also appeals to consumers who are put off by the toughness of traditional jerky,” says founder Jason Burke.
While their snack aisles encompass more and different SKUs, grocers are delivering solutions for shoppers’ cravings across most, if not all, departments.
In the refrigerated case, snacking cheese and combination snack packs offer consumers a host of snacking options.
“Snacks packs combining meat, cheese, crackers and/or dessert were a hit in 2017, with an increase in dollar sales of 45 percent,” notes Wyatt. “These not only deliver on variety, but convenience and satiety.”
Yogurt has long been a snack as much as a breakfast food, and there are an array of yogurt and other cultured and probiotic-rich refrigerated products that appeal to on -the-go, snack-seeking consumers. Here, too, the variety show continues: the maker of Alove yogurt, Torrance, Calif.-based Morinaga Nutritional Foods, recently added a drinkable low-fat Japanese-style yogurt with aloe-vera gel pieces; the product is sold in a 7-ounce bottle and comes in three varieties.
Elsewhere in the store, fresh fruits and vegetables are snackable on their own, yet many grocers have added packaged snacks to their produce department.
“Some consumers are still opting for other fruit forms versus fresh, with an increase in other dried fruit of 2.3 percent,” points out Wyatt.
Grocers can cross-merchandise packaged fruits and vegetable products, carrying them in the traditional snack aisle as well as the produce area. Packaged kale chips, for example, can be displayed near fresh kale or next to other packaged salty snacks, while single-serve packaged strawberries can be sold in a refrigerated case or display not far from larger, traditional fresh strawberry packages.
A 2017 Consumer Insights report from Nielsen confirms shoppers’ gravitation toward packaged produce snacks. According to the research, the on-the-go snacking category within the produce department has grown more than 10 percent every year between 2012 and 2015, with more than 900 new snacking items introduced in that time frame.