Post Categories: March 2014

Trending Tastes: The “Healthification” of Snack Time

mar14-taste-picSnacking is as ingrained in American culture as apple pie and baseball. We have snack time in school, vending machines filled with snack foods at work and frequent opportunities to indulge in “a little bite to eat” at the grocery store and quick-service restaurants. Our love for snacking has grown to the point where nearly 50 percent of eating occasions today are snacks.

What’s more, according to market research firm The Hartman Group, consumers expect snacks to deliver more than ever—not only satisfying hunger, but also providing physical and emotional benefits. Above all, consumers are looking for healthy options that give them permission to snack—a request that retailers and CPGs seem eager to deliver on.

According to market research firm Innova Market Insights, over 70 percent of all snack foods in the U.S. today make some kind of health claim, up from 56 percent in 2011. To accomplish this, many CPGs have revamped old favorites or created new options with special ingredients, such as fiber, whole grains and protein. For example, Nabisco recently introduced several new varieties of Triscuit® crackers made with brown rice and sweet potatoes, while General Mills just unveiled a new line of Nature Valley® Greek Yogurt Protein bars. Unique offerings like seaweed snacks, and vegetable-, nut- and bean-based “chips” have also made their way into mainstream markets in recent years.

Some snack companies are looking to gain in the healthy snack market by focusing on fresher, less processed options. Building on the success of pouch-based baby foods, several companies are now offering “squeezable” fruit and vegetables for consumers of all ages. Options range from Dole’s familiar applesauce flavors to Happy Squeeze’s more unique combinations like strawberry, kiwi and beet. In a similar vein, companies like Blue Diamond and Emerald are now packaging heart-healthy, high-protein nuts in single-serving “to-go” packs.

CPGs certainly aren’t the only ones working to cash in on the move to healthier snacking habits. Many retailers are also supplementing their usual higher-sugar, higher-fat snack offerings at the checkout with single-serving sized packages of popcorn, pretzels and nuts—and even adding yogurt and fruit cups to the small checkout refrigerators that used to be dedicated to soft drinks.

Experts like The Hartman Group and “Supermarket Guru” Phil Lempert predict this is only the beginning of the healthy snacking trend, as more and more consumers eat alone and on-the-go, looking to nourish their bodies while continuing to keep up with their busy lifestyles.