From salty-crunchy bites to smooth-n-creamy spoonfuls, Americans love to snack. More than 90% of consumers say they reach for a little nibble multiple times a day, and the sector has reached nearly $100 billion dollars (1). Increasingly, shoppers won’t settle for snacks packed with sugar and artificial chemicals that make them regret their choices. In fact, the organic snacks market is expected to reach $24.03 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 13.6% from 2018 to 2025, according to Allied Market Research (2).
Now trending in treats
“Consumers are looking for inherently nutritional options in their snacks—gone are the days of three square meals. Instead, people eat throughout the day, consuming numerous mini-meals to fulfill their cravings and nutritional needs,” says David Rosenberg, Food Category Manager at NOW Foods. “Today’s on-the-go lifestyle lends itself to portable options that not only taste good, but are good for you as well. Consumers want to feel positive about what they’re eating so they want products that are filled with protein, fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. They also want to see ingredients they
recognize, and are avoiding anything artificial or overly processed.”
If it’s quick, tasty and easy, chances are consumers will love it. “Through market research, we found that today’s consumer wants to snack healthily on products that are high in protein, low in carbs and sugar-free,” says Mike Pytlinski, CEO of NutraDried Food Company. “Clean labels are important as well, and consumers value access to complete, easy-to-understand ingredient information.”
By attending food shows and researching new products, the staff at Canyon Market, a neighborhood market in Glen Park, San Francisco, keeps up with the expanding snack market. “We set aside time every week to belly up to the table and taste each product from new vendors,” says Kia Fritz, Marketing and Public Relations representative at Canyon Market. “Needless to say, we are staffed with employees that really care about our food system and work in the departments of their interests. We carefully select the products on our shelves to meet our high quality and health standards.”
In terms of ingredients, Fritz says, the trend is fewer ingredients that are of a higher quality. “Customers are striving for ingredients they can pronounce, sourced from areas they can trust. As for flavors, we see a trend toward savory with ingredients like cauliflower, turmeric, nutritional yeast, chickpeas, tahini and lentils. In addition to the savory profile, higher protein snacks are in growing demand.”
Classics get healthy, flavorful upgrades
Nuts: On the high-protein front, nuts remain a favorite. With data tracked from May 2018 to May 2019, Statista found that the nut industry alone brought in approximately $4.83 billion (3). And on the flavor front, nuts are getting more adventurous. In addition to basics like salt cashews, Sunshine Nut Company offers Handful of Herb cashews, as well as their newest flavor, Sugar & Spice cashews. Grown, roasted and packaged on site, Sunshine Nut Company aims to fill a niche market by offering blended flavors. “The Sprinkling of Salt is the go-to for all nut lovers with its dusting of salt and clean, pure cashew flavor,” says Don Larson, Founder and CEO of Sunshine Nut Company. “The Handful of Herb is another popular flavor because there is little like it on the market. A blend of garlic, dill, and other herbs allow for a great savory flavor that reminds everyone of their favorite Italian dinner. The Sugar & Spice is a great addition in that it is not coated or covered with sugar but a light dusting. This allows for a healthy, sweet snack and provides a great alternative to satisfy a sweet tooth craving.”
For more flavor infusions, Nodder Snacks offers Bourbon Baked Pecan Mix, Lavender Baked Almond Mix and Curry Baked Cashew Mix. Smoky, spicy and caramelized nut variations are appealing options when consumers are out and about, says Christophe Le Metayer, Executive Chef at Nodder Snacks. “Snacks that incorporate savory ingredients such as herbs and spices invigorate the snacking landscape, and the combination makes for an interesting new snack.”
Nut butters are also in demand. Offering keto-friendly, organic blanched almond butters, maple almond butter, sunflower seed butter, tahini, and organic sunflower hemp butter among other products, Once Again Nut Butter provides a healthy and convenient snack for consumers on-the-go. Meeting functional needs, the nut butters are high in protein, vitamins and minerals, and low in net carbs.
Fruits & Veggies: Produce-rich picks are another snack-time go-to, and today there are loads of options. Ekoa Brands manufactures natural dried fruit bars in multiple flavors including banana, mango, pineapple and coconut. Their most popular variety is made with only one ingredient: banana. “We all know protein bars have taken the snacking industry by storm,” says Alejandro Restrepo, COO & Co-Founder of Ekoa brands. “Good news is that people who are not that interested in bulking up but want good healthy snacks also have a lot of choices. Fruit snacks along with vegetables snacks are becoming a healthy alternative.”
Veggie chips are also popular—one of NOW’s top sellers is Red Dragon Fruit Chips, along with Organic Goldenberries and Dried Fruits. Rosenberg shares, “Our Red Dragon Fruit Chips, which are a delicious, unsweetened chip, have flavonoids, potassium and vitamin C. Our Organic Goldenberries, which are a strikingly flavorful snack, have no added sugar and are high in potassium, fiber and vitamin A. Our other dried fruit options, Organic Mango Bites and Organic Apricots, also have no added sugar.”
The buzzy veggie of the year is also hot in the snack aisle: cauliflower. Outer Aisle Gourmet offers low carb, grain-free, gluten-free cauliflower pizza crusts and sandwich thins. “We’re seeing plant-powered snacks growing in popularity. Consumers are becoming increasingly health-conscious and they are seeking out low-carb products to incorporate into their diet,” says Jeanne David, Outer Aisle Gourmet’s CEO & Founder. “A top benefit of our products is that they are plant-powered—that is, they are made with 63% fresh cauliflower. They are made with just four ingredients: cauliflower, parmesan cheese, eggs, and nutritional yeast. Our products are keto & paleo-friendly, low-carb, soy free, gluten-free, and non-GMO.”
Cheese: Giving cheese greater grab-and-go appeal, NutraDried Food Company offers Moon Cheese, a dried crunchy cheese using patented technologies that the company says makes it possible to remove only the moisture from cheese while keeping all the nutrition and flavor. “Moon Cheese is the unique snack that combines a nutritional ‘grand slam’—over 10g protein, no sugar and less than 2g of carbs per serving—with great taste and convenience, made only from 100% cheese,” says Pytlinski. “This crunchy snack has all the flavor and nutrition of real cheese because it really is just cheese!”
Granola: Top sellers for New England Natural Bakers range from OG Gluten Free Unsweetened Berry Coconut and OG Gluten Free Unsweetened Strawberry to their OG Protein Harvest Blueberry granola, says Barb Ancypowic, VP Sales. Their pouch granolas are organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, Kosher, and have the Whole Grain seal while their gluten-free items are made with no added sugar.
Snack cakes: Sweet-tooth snackers also have more options: Smart Baking Company believes that healthy snacking doesn’t have to come at a flavor-cost. Offering Smartmuf’n, Smartcakes and Smartbuns, Smart Baking provides gluten-free and low- carb options for individuals looking to cut back on sugars, and gluten, or consumers who want to lose weight, explains Joanne Walter, Chief Marketing Officer, Smart Baking Company.
Jerky: Manufacturers are substituting artificial ingredients with healthier plant-based options, like stevia. “The trend in snacking is continuing towards healthier-for-you snacks with the elimination of sugar,” confirms Karen Phillips, Managing Partner at THRIVE Jerky. “There is also a continuing trend away from manufactured artificial sweeteners to all-natural sweeteners. Stevia continues to grow in popularity as the go-to all-natural sweetener. While everyone wants to feel better about the snacks they consume, they don’t want to give up the flavor and enjoyment of the snack. THRIVE is a zero sugar jerky and the only brand to use all natural stevia instead of sugar. The elimination of sugar makes our jerky the perfect choice for paleo, keto, diabetic and gluten-free eaters. All our flavors have 2g or less of carbs per serving and 12-14g of protein.”
5 Snack Trends for 2020
1. Low-sugar, Big benefits: “For 2020, we are suspecting the trends will continue with less processed sugars and more protein and fats,” says Kia Fritz of Canyon Market. “The term ‘snack’ is transforming from a handful of pretzels to a highly nutritionally dense mini meal.” She adds that plant-based meats, cheeses, and jerkies are likely to be hot, too.
2. Functional add-ins: “Attention-grabbing ingredients such as CBD, probiotics, collagen, and turmeric will find their way into more and more products,” says David Rosenberg of NOW Foods. “Snacks that are positioned as energizing, calming, or aiding digestive health will secure their niche in the marketplace.”
3. Food-tribe focused: Snacks positioned for the Keto diet, FODMAP, Paleo and whatever diet trend emerges next will continue to have their appeal, says Rosenberg. And while it’s not a trend per se, keep an eye on gluten-free: As awareness has grown, so has the range of GF products. The Gluten-Free Certification Organization certified 218 products in July and August, and has a list of thousands on their site.
4. Global flavors: “Expect to see exotic ingredients from other cultures find their way into American snacks,” says Rosenberg. “Millennials are more open to experimentation and seek new flavors and sensations. Snacks with internationally inspired formulations such as Indian, Korean, and Middle Eastern will continue to grow in popularity.”
5. Eco-friendly packaging: When it comes to packaging, Fritz hopes vendors continue to look for ways to reduce the amount of plastic and waste.
Consumers are looking for healthy fare in an increasingly mobile world. For Canyon Market, using social media to introduce new product offerings has helped promotion. “We post signs about new products and feature them on our Instagram and Facebook stories, highlighting the sought-after new additions,” explains Fritz. “Our employees are constantly researching top products and meeting with vendors, leaving an array of products.”
When it comes to healthy offerings, location in-store is key, advises Gael Orr, Marketing Communication and PR manager, Once Again Nut Butter. She explains, “Grouping products with similar benefits can help consumers easily see the options available to them, and providing prominent shelf space so that the packaging can be easily read can go a long way in helping customers understand the attributes each product offers.”
It can also help to share a company’s story. Larson of Sunshine Nut Company explains: “The typical consumer of our products is a shopper who is looking for a premium product that is not only fresh and high quality but also has a mission behind the product to do more for the world. On top of that, we have a philanthropic mission behind our company where we are passionate about caring for the poor and orphaned of Mozambique where our factory is located. We take care of our employees and the community surrounding our factory. One highlight is our Sunshine Houses where we buy and renovate homes, pairing up a widow with orphans to create families. Our purpose is not to do good in the world to sell cashews…rather, we sell cashews to do good in the world.”
Interest in a company’s mission is a consumer shift that will likely continue to increase. “We see a great increase in our consumers choosing products that are not only healthy for their families and themselves, but have a purpose and mission behind the product,” Larson adds. “Buyers are becoming more interested in where their product is coming from as well as what good that product is doing.” WF
1) “Healthy Snacking Companies that are Poised for a Bigger Piece of the Pie,” Microcapspeculators.com. Posted 3/15/18, Accessed 10/1/19. www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/healthy-snacking-companies-that-are-poised-for-a-bigger-piece-of-the-pie-676961283.html.
2) WholeFoods Magazine Staff, “Organic Snacks Market Expected to Soar,” WholeFoodsMagazine.com. Posted 4/30/19. Accessed 10/1/19. www.wholefoodsmagazine.com/news/main-news/organic-snacks-market-expected-to-soar/
2) Jan Conway, “Sales of the leading snack nut vendors in the United States 2019,” www.statista.com, Posted 7/23/19, Accessed, 10/1/19. www.statista.com/statistics/189609/leading-snack-nut-vendors-in-the-united-states-in-2011.