Meijer recently ran a promotion on dried fruits and nuts on an end cap adjacent to the produce section.
While the world isn’t completely back to pre-pandemic normal, people are easing back into everyday life. Lunchboxes are once again being packed for school, and people are snacking on the go. Consumers are more likely to opt for fresher, healthier snacks than ever before.
“With the movement back toward the normalcy of kids in school and adults back in the office, we’re seeing an increased need for convenient on-the-go snacks,” says Carrie Ann Arias, VP of marketing at Naturipe, a Salinas, Calif.-based producer of berries. “Consumers are snacking more than ever and want to have easy and healthy options as they are returning to busy schedules.”
According to Matt Novosel, category manager of produce, value-added at The Giant Co., the Carlisle, Pa.-based chain is seeing 30% increases in kid-friendly snackable fruits and veggies, including pre-sliced apples, freeze-dried apple chips and individual squeezable fruit pouches that help parents save time and give children healthy options.
“During the pandemic, consumers seem to have experimented with new flavors/brands and plant-based products, and they are ready to take their convenient, healthy, plant-based portable snacks wherever they go,” notes Simon Sacal, founder and CEO of San Diego-based Solely Clean Foods, maker of Solely Whole Fruit Gummies.
Andrew Moberly, director of category solutions at Stamford, Conn.-based Daymon, says that increased innovation is driving growth in snackable fruits and veggies. “Consumers continue to search for healthy and immune-boosting options, and convenience remains a top-priority snacking trend, with consumers looking for quick and healthy options to snack on during the day, whether they are on the go or at home,” Moberly observes. “We’re seeing an increase of marketing around younger consumers, with kid-friendly colors and illustrations, as well as pre-portioned options that are easy for children to open. These products help parents create convenient and balanced snacking options throughout the day.”
NatureSweet recently launched a line of ready-to-eat snacking tomatoes in single-use crush-resistant breathable packaging that extends shelf life. The new line, which includes NatureSweet’s Cherubs and Constellation brands, is available in single or triple packs. The on-the-go item debuted at Kroger, which partnered with the brand on promotions and displays across all divisions.
Retailers can expect to see more innovation in packaging for ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables. Fredonia Group, a Cleveland, Ohio-based business research firm, expects demand for fresh fruit sold in pouches, bags and rigid plastic containers to grow. The company predicts that the market will see an increased use of higher-value packaging that offers convenience and ease-of-use features, superior performance and shelf life, and an improved environmental footprint.
“We’re seeing more snack pack options like sliced apples in individual packs and in bigger clamshell packaging,” says Novosel, of The Giant Co. “Many vendors are doing snack packs with apples, caramel and pretzels, for example.”
“We continue to see on-the-go packaging with separate compartments offering proteins with healthy carbs and a fruit or vegetable,” notes Robert Morales, principal and produce vertical team lead for Chicago-based IRI.
According to Arias, Naturipe’s value-added team is constantly developing new ways to bring the company’s fresh berries to consumers. To that end, the brand recently launched Naturipe Snacks Berry Parfaits, featuring Chobani Greek yogurt and granola. “We designed them with grab-and-go snacking in mind,” explains Arias. “The custom packaging provides plenty of room to mix each component and doesn’t compromise the freshness of the berries and the crunch of the granola.”
New packaging options are a focus for Bard Valley Natural Delights, which recently debuted Mini Medjools, a snacking line of six varieties of Medjool dates blended with a range of other natural ingredients. The products were developed as a direct response to shopper feedback suggesting that consumers wanted smaller, more bite-sized snacks with additional flavor profiles, according to David Baxter, director of marketing for the Bard, Calif.-based company.
“We are working on different formats, such as snack boxes and pouches, that will be merchandised in grocery store snacking sections,” Baxter says. “Our goal is to make the product available wherever consumers are looking for delicious healthy snacking options.”
Bard Valley Natural Delights has launched Mini Medjools, a snacking line of natural dates.
Fresh Ideas in Produce and Beyond
Despite the availability of such snacks elsewhere in the store, the fresh produce section remains the go-to set for snackable fruit and vegetables. Daymon’s Moberly points out that private label still leads in integration in this area. As an example, De Pere, Wis.-based Skogen’s Festival Foods includes NatureSweet’s Cherubs to-go packs along with private label veggie and ranch dressing snack packs in an open case in the produce department. Chiquita snack pack apple bites are also featured in the case.
“We merchandise our kid-friendly fruit and veggie options in the produce department within their commodity,” says Novosel. “We have a few stores where we have grab-and-go options for a quick purchase.”
“We are starting to see retailers merchandising grab-and-go fresh snack options in refrigerated cases in the checkout aisle,” notes Daymon’s Moberly. “As more consumers are turning to online platforms for a convenient shopping experience, retailers need to be thinking about how they can differentiate themselves in this category to continue capturing consumer loyalty.”
Innovative shelf-stable fruit and vegetable snacks are also rolling out. “We see an opportunity to expand growth with shelf-stable vegetable options, such as further integration of applesauce pouches with veggie inclusions, and snack packs that emphasize convenience without requiring refrigeration,” says Moberly.
He observes that shelf-stable vegetable salty snacks, which have been popular for a decade, are now taking on many different forms, from root vegetable chips to freeze-dried vegetable varieties such as carrots, beets, kale and cauliflower. “These new options are also incorporating diverse flavors to provide differentiation and incite trial,” he adds.
“Veggie options have expanded to portable snacks in the form of pouches,” says IRI’s Morales. “Clearly, veggies are marking their territory outside of produce and across a number of temperature states and meal occasions.”
Ripe for Disruption
Meanwhile, Nature’s Garden, a brand of Totowa, N.J.-based Cibo Vita Inc., recently expanded its line of probiotic-enhanced dried fruits with six new products. The company is focused on creating new on-the-go packaging formats for healthy snacks.
Rind Snacks, a maker of functional and sustainable fruit snacks, has expanded outside of the traditional chewy dried fruit category by crossing over into the fast-growing chip aisle with the launch of thin-cut Fruit Chips in three flavors.
Matt Weiss, founder and CEO of New York-based Rind Snacks, notes that the dried fruit category was ripe for disruption. “Dried fruit snacks are a convenient, clean-energy and high-nutrition option in a lightweight, shelf-stable format,” Weiss says. “Rind is highly versatile as a solo snack as well as an accompaniment to charcuterie, baked goods, cheese boards and even cocktails. The ability to pair so well across a variety of snack occasions, from grab-and-go to elevated entertaining, makes our product line unique.”
Weiss believes that the product is suited to the fresh perimeter, and the company is currently piloting a number of produce placements with several of its key accounts. Rind snacks can currently be found at Wegmans, The Fresh Market, Giant Eagle, Meijer, Raley’s and Fresh Thyme Market.
Solely Whole Fruit Gummies have only two to three ingredients and are made with more than 99% real fruit, giving the product a point of differentiation in the segment. “Our products are being merchandised in the fruit snack set, in the lunch box set, and as we develop new form factors, they will find their way to impulse areas of the store, including checkstands,” asserts Sacal. “We’ve also received strong interest from produce buyers, as it makes sense to include all-natural, organic real-fruit snacks in the produce set.”