Snacks Overview 2013

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Snack Early, Snack Often

Americans are snacking more, and they’re continuing to look for options that make them feel good about it.

Studies show the typical consumer now snacks an average of two to three times a day, says Cassandra Matos, confections category manager for McLane Co., Temple, Texas. People are increasingly seeking out healthy snacks—or at least those they consider to be healthy.

“Every one in five eating occasions is a snack,” she says. “As consumers are snacking more, they’re going to want to find something they perceive to be better for you.”

Healthful Goes Mainstream

The NPD Group, a Port Washington, N.Y.-based market-research company, reported last fall that more consumers view snacking as a way to improve their eating habits. Those following the healthiest diets snacked twice as often as those whose diets were less healthy, according to NPD’s “Snacking in America” report.

With city and state public-health organizations getting involved with campaigns such as the National Salt Reduction Initiative and the USDA’s proposals limiting snacks in schools, many manufacturers already have gotten innovative with healthier snack options, says Marcia Mogelonsky, director of insight for Mintel International, Chicago.

“A number have launched campaigns pointing out just how healthy at least some of their products are,” she says, citing a promotion on healthy eating launched by Coca-Cola earlier this year.

“Going forward we will see more mainstream companies launching more better-for-you snacks and some upstarts launching similar products. Some will be successful; others won’t,” Mogelonsky says. “The major factor is that people love to snack on salty foods, and the less-than-salty foods don’t always satisfy. So some companies will work more on portion control of their salty products than on salt reduction.”

Choices, Choices

Overall, two trends will guide the future of salty snacks: new and different flavor profiles, and new items within established brands, Matos of McLane says.

As an example of new flavors, she points to the newly launched Cracker Jack’D items, with flavors including Spicy Pizzeria, Cheddar BBQ and PB and Chocolate. She also points to Chex Mix with its 13 flavors, including Chipotle Cheddar and Chocolate Turtle. Meanwhile, Mars Chocolate North America’s M&M’s brand successfully moved into snacks with last year’s launch of its sweet-and-salty snack mixes.

“I think we’ll continue to see suppliers go toward that perceived better-for-you, very different flavor profiles and line extension son brands trying to bring that consumer to that brand,” Matos says.

Retailers should tweak their plano-grams to cater to snackers looking for healthful options, she advises. “If you can take those items, and instead of having them flow throughout the set really block them together in a segment of the plan-ogram, you have a better opportunity to really grab that consumer’s eye,” Matos says. With more consumers snacking more often and increasingly willing to try something new, retailers are likely to benefit from giving new snack items a chance.

Even with all the emphasis on products marketed toward healthfulness, Mogelonsky of Mintel says c-stores would do well to stock arrange of snack offerings that appeal to snackers no matter their mood or health intent.

“Consumers can be fickle and can vary between health-focused and pleasure focused,”she says. “Having choices is what consumers really want.

Chipping Away

Chips are still a mainstay of the snack category and sales are growing, though not as fast as other segments such as nuts, says Matos of McLane.

Some established brands are jumping aisles to seize opportunities driven by health awareness. Special K Cracker Chips, for example, are touted as low calorie and “a snack that won’t throw the afternoon off track.” David Seeds, synonymous with sunflower seeds, is also expanding into nuts and trail mixes.

Sales of products such as Wonderful pistachios and Planters NUT-trition items have been strong, a reflection of consumers’ health awareness. Even sales of turkey jerky are up in the dried-meats segment, Matos says.

And while trail mix holds the smallest portion of sales in the salty-snack segment, it’s showing the strongest growth.“It goes back to [the fact that] consumers are snacking more and more, and snacking is becoming more of a meal occasion than it used to be,” Matos says.

Nuts to That

Nuts, fruit snacks and snack mixes may have an advantage over rivals in the new push for health awareness. The North American market for these segments is expected to grow over the next five years from $7.2 billion to $9.2 billion, Mintel reports.

Women are more concerned than men about the fat content in nuts but overwhelmingly value them as a source of protein and energy, says Mogelonsky of Mintel.

“Small packets of nuts will continue to have appeal to them, especially products that advertise antioxidants or other health benefits,” she says. Form Before Flavor According to consumer research by General Mills Convenience, consumers choose specific snack products first based on form (single-form vs. multiform),and then on flavor, brand and type of product. Single form is typically paired with some type of food, whereas multi-form product is typically a standalone snack that tides the consumer over between meals.

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