Snacks used to be only candy or chips, but advances in the marketing of fresh produce have helped to break down that sugary, salty wall.
Many fruits and vegetables are easily eaten as snacks; many are packaged and sold for that purpose. Branded snack packages of produce may be small, but the sales boom is huge.
- Customers want more branded produce snacks available for quick purchase.
- All ages appreciate snackable produce, not just kids.
- Snackable produce should be convenient, healthy and portable.
Snackable fruits and vegetables accounted for sales of $16.3 billion in the year ended May 27, 2017, according to Nielsen. When iffy items that could be used as ingredients and not just snacks, such as bananas, were subtracted and an “on the go” subcategory was developed, sales over the same period were $1.1 billion. On-the-go snacks posted a compound annual growth rate of more than 10 percent every year between 2012 and 2016.
Manufacturers and retailers have introduced 900 new snacking items during this period, with 600 being individual servings of fresh-cut fruit — with and without additional items.
It’s OK to Snack Fresh
Branded cups of diced or sliced fruits and vegetables line refrigerated cases, and customers grab them because produce snacking is Mom- or Dad-approved for the kids and for themselves. For kid lunches, after school or just a quick healthy snack, this segment appears to be a new staple in the produce department.
“We sell Chiquita apple snacks and slices,” says Terry Esteve, produce director at New Orleans- and Baton Rouge, La.-based Robért Fresh Markets. “The apple snacks do best when school is in [session]. They are lunchbox-sized and offer apples and grapes in the same pack, or just sliced apples.”
Branded Smoothies Go Anywhere
Smoothies continue to grow in popularity. These healthy drinks are portable and can serve as a fast liquid snack or meal replacement. Health-conscious customers prefer fruit smoothies over other types, according to Technavio Market Research, whose U.S. office is in Elmhurst, Ill. The global smoothie market is poised to see a compound annual growth rate of almost 9 percent by 2022.
Branded smoothies are big business. Some of the top smoothie brands include Bolthouse Farms, with carrots and other vegetables; Odwalla, which calls its smoothies the original superfood and is owned by The Coca-Cola Co.; Naked Juice, owned by PepsiCo; and new Simply Smoothies, also owned by Coca-Cola.
Bottled smoothies add to the convenience and portability of produce snacks, since there’s nothing to chop or blend. Flavors can vary — at least two of the smoothie brands mentioned above offer limited-edition Pumpkin Spice varieties during fall. According to the Food Marketing Institute’s “The Power of Produce 2019” report, produce-based beverages merchandised in the produce department are a still small but rapidly growing market. Half of shoppers purchase them, primarily younger, male and higher-income consumers.
Robért Fresh Markets introduced more lines of branded snack vegetables in 2019, Esteve notes, adding, “We offer individual serving-size packs of mini cucumbers with grape tomatoes or mini sweet peppers, as well as a snack-sized grape tomato package. All do very well when schools are in.”
“Apples are a popular snack, and three out of four apple-eating occasions are for snacking,” says Brianna Shales, communications manager for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers. “Our Lil Snappers brand of 3-pound apples or pears is perfect for snacking occasions, as it’s a ‘kid-sized’ piece of fruit and a great on-the-go snacking item. But really, any apple is a great portable snack.”
Produce snacks aren’t just for kids or for a particular occasion. Robért Fresh Markets offers Sundia single-serve fruit cups, which Esteve observes have been “gaining traction lately. Folks are grabbing something quick for breakfast.”
Steven Ware, VP and general manager of Naturipe Value Added Fresh at Naturipe Farms, a grower-owned partnership based in Salinas, Calif., notes that his company’s snacks are “easy, convenient and great for all snackers, from students and professionals to kids and families.” According to Shales, meanwhile, people want to eat healthy but don’t always have time to do so. “Highlighting the portability and convenience produce offers people and coming up with new portable packs are great ways to keep customers enjoying more fruits and vegetables,” she says.
Handy Candy is Dandy
Handy Candy is the fitting name of Flavor Pic’s snack-size grape tomatoes, which come in 4- and 2-ounce sizes. The “candy” part of the product’s name comes from the company’s test of its tomatoes, which must pass the company flavor profile and measure high on the Brix sweetness scale before being so labeled.