Bowl of pretzels
With more innovation, pretzel manufacturers predict that 2017 will be a break-out year in this multidimensional snack category.

KANSAS CITY — When it comes to the art of snacking, pretzels paint on a canvas for almost every taste. It doesn’t matter if it’s sweet, savory, salty or all of the above. These traditional snacks can be found among better-for-you ­alternatives, a crunchy component in a swath of snack mixes, in the dairy section as an integral part of an appetizer or even as a chocolate- or yogurt-coated counterpart to conventional candy and others in the confection category.

In many ways, pretzels are a consummate neoclassical snack that strives to leave a lasting impression no matter what consumers want.

Bob Clark
Bob Clark, vice-president of marketing for Herr Foods

“Pretzels are considered light and lower in fat and calories than other salty snacks, and therefore are seen as a classic yet modern sensible snack,” said Bob Clark, vice-president of marketing for Herr Foods, Inc. “Over the past several years, there has been a trend away from products [like pretzels] that contain gluten, which has dampened some consumer enthusiasm, but the category looks to be holding up well based on the excitement around new flavors and shapes.”

Perhaps pretzel manufacturers just need a little bit more creativity for the versatile snack to meet its full potential, said Scott Carpenter, president and chief executive officer of Savor Street Foods, Inc., a contract manufacturer based in Reading, PA.

Pretzel shapes
Pretzels come in a variety of shapes and sizes, giving them potential for innovation.

“Although innovation in the pretzel category has been increasing, pretzels continue to be under-developed versus other snacks with some important consumer trends such as gluten-free, organic and ancient grains,” Mr. Carpenter said. “Pretzels have tremendous untapped potential as snack alternatives in these areas, and over the next few years, consumers are going to have a wider array of innovative pretzel snacks to choose from.”

Looking at total sales, research firm Canadean expects the pretzel category to grow slightly faster than the broader savory snack market, according to Tom Vierhile, innovations insights director for Canadean. The company is projecting that pretzels will enjoy a 3% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) based on market volume for the period of 2014 to 2019 vs. a 2.6% CAGR for savory snacks over the same period.