ORLANDO, FLA. — In response to changing consumer trends and a constantly evolving market, the Snack Food Association (S.F.A.) plans to go beyond the snack aisle and reach out beyond its core membership base to attract new members who serve the broader snacking occasion.
The change is part of an overall effort to “rebrand” the association.
“We need to expand the umbrella and bring in those new entries into the portable snack industry and make them feel welcome as part of our association,” said Tom Dempsey, president and chief executive officer of the S.F.A.
Specifically, the S.F.A. wants to attract not only companies that manufacture potato chips, pretzels, tortilla chips, cheese curls, popcorn, pork rinds and other conventional snacks, but also those businesses that produce more healthful alternatives.
“We also want to acknowledge and assist the new incubator companies that have an idea, a plan or a product for the snacking market but need more information or need sourcing to be successful,” Mr. Dempsey said.
He added that many S.F.A. members are actively responding to a changing market by providing consumers with more options that may contain less salt, more protein, ancient grains and other perceived better-for-you ingredients.
“Our existing members are giving consumers a choice,” he said.
Mr. Dempsey noted that snacking has become a strong category, pointing to recent studies showing that Americans snack five or six times a day.
“Snacking becomes a more important part of their dietary plans,” he said.
In many ways, Mr. Dempsey said, the S.F.A. is just responding to a changing industry that historically has been driven by innovation.
“Just as we had two or three generations ago when people were making their own potato chips, we now have new family-owned businesses coming out with new product innovations,” he explained. “We want to be helpful to them as an association, welcome them in, to be able to join the networking that goes on in this association for supplies, for machinery, for ideas, for seasonings and more.”
At the same time, the industry faces significant new challenges, especially in social media where food bloggers can become a snack producer’s worst nightmare by simply posting an opinion on-line. Mr. Dempsey suggested that the S.F.A. and its members need to respond quickly with hard facts that debunk any myths about snacks.“We want to make sure that any investigation or evaluation of our industry follows science and to let our foods stand on the science, not on the misinterpretation or misrepresentation of what our food products are,” he said.