CHICAGO — Innovation is driving pockets of growth within the snack market, which last year lagged total food and beverage sales in the United States. Traditional snack categories are challenged as consumers have more choices than ever, said Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice-president and practice leader at Information Resources, Inc.
“The consideration set isn’t all about retail anymore; that’s where consumers used to get all their snacks in the past,” Ms. Lyons Wyatt said during a presentation at the Sweets & Snacks Expo. “But now they have a lot more opportunities to go to quick-serve restaurants, limited-serve restaurants and many other venues.”
What’s winning? Resealable packaging, superfood ingredients and meat snacks, Ms. Lyons Wyatt said. Snack packs and bars combining fruits, vegetables and nuts are blurring category lines and appealing to the label-conscious consumer. Additionally, more and more products positioned as bites or thins have entered the marketplace recently, achieving more than $100 million in year-to-date sales, she said.
Other snacking trends include single-serve dipping cups with salsa, peanut butter or guacamole, as well as products positioned as “dippers,” full-fat dairy formulations and a broad range of global flavors and forms.
“Flavors are making a huge difference in innovation, especially with younger consumers,” Ms. Lyons Wyatt said. “The flavor combinations they will try is phenomenal.”
She named three trends emerging in the natural channel that will contribute to overall industry growth in the year ahead. An evolution of portable snacking will elevate such concepts as frozen juices, handheld farmer’s cheese and nut-based smoothies with probiotics. Meat snacks will continue to abound with new products marketed to children, nose-to-tail innovation and products such as free-range chicken chips. Additionally, consumer adoption of holistic health will give rise to probiotic-enhanced products, pulses and ingredients with a focus on farming practices.
New products on display from more than 800 companies at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, held May 23-25 in Chicago, underscore such trends in snacking. Drawing 17,000 industry professionals, the annual event hosted by the National Confectioners Association showcased the latest innovations from large and small manufacturers alike, with brands ranging from better-for-you to unapologetically indulgent.