KANSAS CITY — Two recent acquisitions makes it clear food and beverage companies see a runway of opportunity in the healthy snack space. With demand for chips, cookies, crackers and other snacks perceived as unhealthy apparently plateauing, companies are looking for new avenues of growth. Some see it in nuts, seeds and dried fruits.

On Aug. 6, the J.M. Smucker Co. acquired Seattle-based Sahale Snacks, Inc., a maker of nut and fruit mixes. In late June, TreeHouse Foods invested $860 million to acquire Flagstone Foods, St. Paul, Minn. Flagstone is a manufacturer of snack nuts, trail mixes and dried fruit products for the private label market.

Companies like the Campbell Soup Co. also are investing in healthy snacks. Campbell recently announced it is introducing a line of healthy snacks through its Bolthouse Farm business, and extending the reach of its V8 brand into the nutrition bar segment.

And one cannot forget the dramatic rise of Greek yogurt in the past few years. Much of that category’s growth came from the health halo that hovers over the yogurt space.

Health and wellness has been a powerful force in product development, and the trend of simple, clean labels has added a new dimension. It is clear companies are seeking products that resonate with those consumers who are placing an added value on products they perceive to be natural and healthy.

In addition, snacking has become a fourth meal for many. Data recently released by the Nielsen Co. shows 91% of the 1,100 U.S. consumers the market research firm surveyed over the age of 18 ate a snack at least once per day. Sixty-two per cent said they snack twice per day.

The snack segment has become a significant source of business for many companies and the competition appears to be intensifying as firms look for new avenues of opportunity. It would not be surprising to see more acquisitions take place in healthy snacks as food and beverage businesses attempt to position themselves for future growth.