Snyder's-Lance better-for-you products
For Snyder’s-Lance, better-for-you products feature such attributes as non-G.M.O., organic, gluten-free, whole grain and reduced-fat.

BOSTON — Better-for-you snacks account for a third of Snyder’s-Lance, Inc.’s total portfolio sales, up from 25% two years ago, and that proportion is expected to rise to 40% next year, said Carl E. Lee Jr., president and chief executive officer. The Charlotte, N.C.-based company has achieved this expansion of health-oriented offerings through product renovation, innovation and the acquisition of Diamond Foods earlier this year. For Snyder’s-Lance, better-for-you products feature such attributes as non-G.M.O., organic, gluten-free, whole grain and reduced-fat.

The company is well ahead of industry trends. In the salty snacks category overall, better-for-you products generated 16% of sales last year and is expected to grow to 22% by 2020, said Mr. Lee, citing data from Information Resources, Inc.

Carl Lee Jr., Snyder's-Lance
Carl E. Lee Jr., president and c.e.o. of Snyder's-Lance

“So, this is where the growth is going to be — I don’t think anyone would dispute that — but the question for us is, are we staying ahead of that as a company?” Mr. Lee said during a Sept. 7 presentation at the Barclays Global Consumer Staples Conference in Boston. “Are we leaning in the right amount? Not leaning in too much, obviously, but making sure that we’re staying very relevant there, because we will be a mainstream company with mainstream brands, but we will also want to be the leader on the cutting edge in delivering the nutrition and the value consumers are looking for based on their ingredients.”

Consumers now expect non-G.M.O. claims and are beginning to expect organic claims on the snacks they buy, Mr. Lee said.

“That is something very clear, and we’ve been able to transition to that much faster than our competition,” he said. “But beyond that, the consumers are not going to give up taste. They’re not going to give us quality. And while they’re looking for better snacks, and it may be a better traditional snack or it may be a very high-protein beneficial snack, but they’re clearly looking for something more out of what they are eating than ever before.”

Snyder's-Lance non-G.M.O. snacks
Snyder's-Lance is aiming to introduce more snacks with non-G.M.O. claims.

Last year, Non-GMO Project verified products accounted for 7% of total salty snack sales, up from 3% in 2011, and drove 41% of growth in the category, Mr. Lee said, citing I.R.I. data.

“That’s very significant,” he said. “It’s more than doubled its share of sales in the last five years, but it continues to be the leading way in which the category is growing. And as we lean in there, we’ve seen some very significant improvements in our brands. And we’re making sure, again, we’re staying very close to the new expectations we’re facing as a category.

“But it goes beyond just non-G.M.O. When we rolled out gluten-free, we intentionally were kind of late to the category because we held out to make sure we were going to deliver great taste and great quality and great texture. And it’s hard to do when you’re working with some new ingredients. But we did that very well, and within a year we were the leader in that sub-segment side of pretzels.”

Snyder's-Lance gluten-free pretzel sticks
Snyder's-Lance delayed entering the gluten-free category because it wanted to ensure the quality of its products.

He added: “And then we also have been moving to a clean label on Snyder’s of Hanover and beginning to roll that out. So, we’ll qualify for non-G.M.O. there as well. So, some significant improvement in a well-established brand, but linking it to what consumers and retailers are looking for to make sure we continue to grow the category and, very importantly, grow our brand.”

In addition to Snyder’s of Hanover, Snyder’s-Lance’s brands include Lance, Cape Cod, Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps and Late July. The Diamond Foods acquisition added Pop Secret, Emerald, Diamond of California and Kettle Brand.

“And we really believe that we’re going to be able to convert our portfolio to that 40% better-for-you during 2017,” Mr. Lee said. “We’ll continue to focus on all of our snacks, but this is a sub segment that will allow us to continue to make sure we’re leaning in where the growth is at.”