Snacking with smarts

by Allison Sebolt
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Consumers know they need more fruits and vegetables in their diets, and some recent snack product introductions are making it easier to meet daily targets.

Ed Loyd, director of communications at Chiquita Brands International, Inc., Cincinnati, said the key to providing healthier snacks is making them as convenient as possible for consumers on the go.

Consumers are looking for various ways to enjoy fruits and vegetables, whether that is in a juice, smoothie or other form.

“We found there is a strong pull from consumers for both having the natural product as well as having the ability to add something else onto it,” Mr. Loyd said.

Chiquita launched its apple and apple caramel bites in 2005, and it is the company’s most popular healthy snacking option. In 2009, the company also introduced pineapple bites and pineapple bites with coconut.

Chiquita has not yet ventured much into superfruits in the United States, although it has released some pomegranate and acai berry flavored Fruit in a Bottle products in Europe.

In the future, Mr. Loyd said there will be opportunities for co-branding in the market for healthy snacks, and the company is currently co-branding its apple slices at some Subway restaurants. In addition, the company took part in a licensing agreement with Old Orchard Brands L.L.C., Sparta, Mich., last year to produce frozen smoothie products.

While fruits are still a key part of breakfast, Mr. Loyd believes it will be important for the company to get its products marketed alongside the bag of chips, candy bar or soda products in the snack aisle so consumers have a healthy alternative. Chiquita also recently made an innovation in packaging technology with its Landec packaging — a special patch placed on banana packaging and designed to control the atmosphere within the bag to increase shelf life by as much as seven days. The application is especially useful for convenience stores.

Del Monte Foods, San Francisco, has various fruit snacks, including Fruit Chillers Tubes, Citrus Bowls and SuperFruit cups. The Fruit Chillers Tubes are designed especially for children but are good for the whole family, and the SuperFruit snack product includes peach, pear and mixed fruit chunks along with a mix of fruit juices, including acai, blackberry, pomegranate, orange, mango and passion fruit. The Citrus Bowls are available in Grapefruit Duo and Citrus Salad varieties.

Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., Lakeville-Middleboro, Mass., offers the Cranergy juice drink made from cranberry juice and enhanced with ingredients such as green tea extract and B vitamins. It comes in Cranberry Lift, Pomegranate Cranberry Lift and Raspberry Cranberry Lift varieties.

Mrs. May’s Naturals, Inc., Carson, Calif., has a line of freeze dried fruit chips in apple, pear, strawberry and pineapple flavors as well as crispy fruit chips in apple, melon and pineapple flavors. The company also offers crispy veggie chips in sweet potato and taro veggie flavors.

When it comes to other types of snack products, some grain-based foods companies are experimenting with vegetable inclusions.

For example, Snyder’s of Hanover, Hanover, Pa., recently introduced the Eatsmart Naturals line, which includes garden veggie crisps and garden veggie sticks snack items. The crisps are made from blends of potatoes, tomatoes and spinach, and the company said the veggie sticks are made from a julienne blend of the same veggies. The Eatsmart line also has MultiGrain Tortilla chips that contain chia seeds and 16 grams of whole grains per serving.

ProBar, Salt Lake City, Utah, has a Fruition line of fruit-based snack bars with flavors such as strawberry, blueberry, peach and cran-raspberry. The company markets the bars as having antioxidants and chia seeds.

In a Times & Trends report, Information Resources, Inc., Chicago, said salty snacks offering all-natural and grain-related claims are gaining share in category sales, and 31% of consumers view snacks as part of a healthy eating plan throughout the day. In addition, nearly two-thirds of consumers are trying to eat snacks to help them meet daily nutritional goals. I.R.I. said healthier snacks represent 33% of the snack market, and such snacks are growing more quickly than more indulgent snacks.

Mintel International, Chicago, said the promotion of functional benefits — either through fortification or by suppliers giving more attention to the natural benefits of the ingredients — is becoming the norm in snacks. As an example, Mintel said Made in Nature, L.L.C., Fowler, Calif., has a line of dried fruit products that all boast of antioxidants, and the line includes mangos, apricots, raisins, pineapple, plums, calimyrna figs, black mission figs, apples and cranberries. Antioxidants are even a way of marketing nut snacks, as Mintel said many new nut chips and crisps made with pistachios or almonds have high fiber and antioxidant content, and the Frito-Lay True North line and Diamond Foods’ Emerald brand may leverage the trend in marketing.

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