ROCKVILLE, MD. — Shaking up the salty snacks market are such better-for-you buzzwords as chia seeds, hummus and quinoa. More manufacturers are aiming to entice a healthy subset of snackers with clean labels, gluten-free claims and non-bioengineered ingredients, chipping away at traditional potato-based offerings.
More than 90% of U.S. households reported consuming salty snacks in the past 30 days, and two out of three households said they have at least three kinds of salty snacks, according to a recent report from market research firm Packaged Facts. Of the 50 million frequent snackers who prefer salted snacks, 14.2 million self-professed “healthy” snackers who exercise often and seek out better-for-you ingredients said they do not see a conflict between eating salty snacks and pursuing a healthy diet.
Salty snacks include potato and tortilla chips, pretzels, cheese snacks, corn snacks, ready-to-eat popcorn and pork rinds.
Potatoes and corn face growing competition from vegetable- and legume-based snacks, Packaged Facts said. Such non-traditional snack chips launched this year include Simply7 Quinoa Chips, which are gluten-free, Non-G.M.O. Project-verified, vegetarian and kosher; Snikiddy’s Eat Your Vegetables, gluten-free chips made with eight vegetables, including kale, sweet potatoes and shitake mushrooms; and The Better Chip, which is gluten-free and made from non-bioengineered corn masa and vegetables. Also this year, Lundberg Family Farms introduced a line of multigrain rice chips made with organic brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, corn, millet, garbanzo beans, chia and flax seeds; and Boulder Canyon Natural Foods, a brand of Inventure Foods, Inc., launched kettle-cooked potato chips made with olive oil and avocado oil.
Even big players are biting in the better-for-you battle. Earlier this year, General Mills, Inc. introduced Green Giant snack chips, including a tortilla chip variety made with dried bell peppers, broccoli, carrots and tomatoes, and a multigrain sweet potato variety. Additionally, the Kellogg Co. added Kashi Hummus Crisps, made with a blend of chickpeas, whole grains, spices and herbs.
Also seizing an opportunity in better-for-you snacking, 7-Eleven in September introduced a healthy snack section stocked with products featuring ingredients such as dry roasted edamame, organic trail mix and veggie chips.
“Better-for-you is one of the fastest-growing segments of the snacking category,” said Rebecca Frechette, a vice-president of merchandising for 7-Eleven. “People are snacking throughout the day, and they’re looking for ways to improve what they eat without sacrificing taste. Our selection includes our own 7-Select line of trail mixes and snacks alongside top-shelf and gourmet brands that you might not expect to find in a convenience store.”
While smaller players with creative, health-driven products are posing crisp competition to established brands, PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay North America unit still leads the salty snack pack, Packaged Facts said. This year, the company introduced a spate of unique flavor combinations and formats, including Ruffles Crispy Fries Potato Strips, which are french fry-shaped potato snacks with a crunchy texture; Lay’s potato chips in chicken and waffle, cheesy garlic bread and Sriracha varieties; and Doritos Locos Tacos-inspired Doritos, which combined the flavors of nacho cheese Doritos and a Taco Bell taco.
Unexpected flavor combinations are gaining favor among salty snack consumers, according to the report. Offering sweet and savory indulgence, Kettle Brands rolled out Sweet and Salty and Maple Bacon chips this year, and Frito-Lay launched Lay’s Wavy Potato Chips Dipped in Milk Chocolate for a limited time through the holiday season. Snyder’s-Lance plans to add spicy and sweet lines of pretzel products in 2014.
Salty snacks have become a hot seller in recent merger and acquisition activity. B&G Foods snapped up better-for-you snack maker Pirate Brands in June for $195 million. In 2012, the Kellogg Co. completed its acquisition of Pringles from Procter & Gamble for $2.695 billion, and Snyder’s-Lance purchased the Pretzel Crisps brand from Snack Factory.A perennial favorite, popcorn is popular among all demographics, Packaged Facts said. A number of ready-to-eat products with gluten-free and whole grain benefits have popped up recently in the market, including Popcorn, Indiana’s Fit line of reduced-calorie popcorn and Frito-Lay’s Smartfood Selects line of popped chips, popcorn and puffed corn. Recent introductions with innovative flavors include Van Holten’s Dill Pickle Popcorn and 479° Popcorn’s chipotle, caramel and pumpkin seeds variety.