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Healthy + Sweet = Snack Opportunity

By Kathleen Furore 

Have you bought into the notion that your customers prefer better-for-you ingredients over indulgent sweets in the snacks they’re looking for on your store’s shelves?

If so, you’re only partially correct!

While 30 percent of American consumers say they usually snack only on healthy foods, and 45 percent say nutritional value is the most important feature of the foods the eat, they still want to splurge when it comes to snacking, according to Sweet Baked Goods: U.S. Market Trends, a recent report from Packaged Facts.

“Even as consumers seek to be healthy, there is the pervasive desire to indulge in treats they know aren’t good for them,” the report reveals.

Balancing Snacking Preferences

Statistics paint a sweet picture of the overall snack market.

Two-thirds of adults over the age of 18 (some 55 million people!) say they often snack between meals. Judging from sales figures, they’re opting to balance their desire for healthy ingredients and indulgent flavor profiles in ways that aren’t hurting the sweet baked goods category.

Sales of packaged sweet baked goods reached $20 billion in 2014, and will uptick by a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 3 percent to reach $23 billion in 2019, Packaged Facts reports.

And that opens opportunities for retailers and CPG companies alike.

“There are opportunities for growth as consumers snack smarter even when indulging by choosing sweet goods designed for ‘grab and go’ snacking or products designed to minimize calorie count without overtly sacrificing the flavors familiar to customers,” says David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts.

Snack/Cereal/Nutritional Bars Fit Better-For-You Profile

Sweet baked goods aren’t the only products consumers are turning to when they want to sate their sweet tooth with better-for-you snacks. Hungry snackers are reaching for products in the cereal and nutrition bar category, too.

Snack bars dominated the cereal bars market in 2015, with a substantial share of close to 82 percent, according to Global Cereal Bars Market 2016-2020, a new report from market research firm Technavio. And the market overall shows no signs of slowing: The global cereal bars market is expected to grow at a CAGR of around 4 percent during the forecast period, Technavio analysts predict.

As Packaged Facts analysts note, food bars—once a mainstay of fuel for athletes and fitness buffs—have become a staple for the everyday consumer.

“Our snacking ways have opened the door for nutrition and cereal/granola bars to gain broad appeal, giving consumers a way to sidestep eating three meals a day at set times and instead improvise with meals and snacks throughout the day, whether they are on the go or at home,” Nutritional and Cereal Bars in the U.S., 4th Edition, a 2015 report from Packaged Facts says. “Bars provide an attractive way for food marketers to combine sweet baked good appeal with organic, gluten-free, and other health halo product positionings; wholesome grains; alternative, exotic sources of protein; and superfoods and other functional ingredients targeting specific health concerns.”

The fact that bars incorporate ingredients like protein and fiber, and are packaged to be convenient single-serve, grab-and-go snacks are part of their appeal—especially to demographics groups retailers and CPG companies strive to reach.

According to Packaged Facts, while 18- to 34-year-old men account for the largest demographic segment of high-volume users of nutrition bars, women of all ages represent the next four largest groups of consumers who use relatively large quantities of nutrition bars. “Female Boomers and women in the 65+ age group will be an increasingly important target for marketers. One in six (16.4 percent) high-volume users of nutrition bars are women age 55 or over,” the firm’s Nutritional and Cereal Bars report says.

Whatever consumer group a business is trying to reach, the fact that almost all Americans snack, and have no plans to stop, bodes well for the snack category—including items with a sweet flavor profile.

“Health will continue to play a role in the types of snacks consumers are interested in. However, it’s important to recognize the impact of flavor and satisfying a craving on snacking occasions, which occasionally trump health,” Mintel’s 2015 Snacking Motivations and Attitudes report concludes.

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