The snackification of meals is fundamentally changing the snack foods industry. With multiple snacking occasions per day and the rise in snacks replacing meals, consumers’ expectations in snacks have expanded beyond indulgence and satiety. This year’s snack trends include a new health focus, new ingredients, and some serious flavor exploration.
Why We Snack
According to a Hartman Group report, 91% of Americans snack multiple times each day, with 8% of snackers replacing entire meals with snacks.1 The NPD Group found that snack foods eaten at main meals comprise 24% of snack food eatings and will continue to grow, driven by Gen Zs and Millennials.2 Gen Zs and Millennials define snacks differently from the previous generation and have different expectations, such as snacks that offer a health benefit like protein or provide upscale ingredients.
Drivers of Snackification
The cultural shift toward regular and frequent snacking has sprung from a variety of factors, including:
- Fast-paced lifestyles that embrace ready-to-eat foods
- On-the-go lifestyles that require portable foods
- Decline in sit-down family meals
- Rise in eating alone both at home and at work
- Belief that smaller, more frequent meals is healthier
Marketers and product developers of snack foods may wish to tailor their products to specific snacking occasions to ensure the ingredients and messaging are on target with consumer needs for that time of day. The main snacking occasions have been identified as:
- Early morning
- After dinner
- Late night
For example, a high-fiber, milder flavored snack may work well as an early morning snack, whereas a sweet snack may be a better fit for the late-night snacking occasion.
“Although consumers are not adding new snacking occasions to the day, there is a shift in what’s eaten at main meals and how snacking is viewed. Consumers today expect snacks to work for them; the snack is no longer just a reward.”3 -David Portalatin, VP, Industry Analysis, The NPD Group
According to a Mintel report released this year, half of U.S. consumers believe they should be eating more protein.4The majority also consider plant-based proteins, in particular, to be inherently healthy. Mintel found that including plant-based proteins is a way to signal that a snack food is providing high-quality nutrition. In fact, protein claims were present in 20% of 2017’s savory snack launches, up from 16% the prior year.5
Both puffs and popcorn have been getting protein makeovers. Shrewd Food Protein CRISPS uses milk protein isolate to reach 14 grams of protein per serving and offers both savory and sweet flavors like Sriracha Cheddar and Cookies & Cream. Ready Nutrition Protein Puffs relies on pea protein to achieve 10 grams of protein per serving and is available in Pink Himalayan Sea Salt, Sweet Chipotle, and Cinnamon & Sugar. Ips All Natural offers chips at 6 grams of protein and popcorn at 5 grams of protein per serving from whey protein concentrate.
Protein balls, which are a bite-sized alternative to bars, offer a new format for snackable protein. Protein balls showcased at the Sweets & Snacks Expo include Bounce Energy Protein Balls, Orbs Organic Raw Bite Snacks, and The Protein Ball Co.’s Vegan Protein Balls, Whey Protein Balls, and Egg White Protein Balls.
As concerns over health increase, functional snacks are also expanding. Vegan Rob’s chips and puffs lines contain ingredients like turmeric and probiotics. Wai Lana Cassava Chips also offers a turmeric version. In sweet snacks, Amplify Snack Brands’ Oatmega bars and cookies contain omega-3s from three types of fish oil “to support heart health,” as well as high amounts of protein from whey and milk protein concentrates.
Adding a custom nutrient premix is a fast way to incorporate healthy nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, botanicals, and even probiotics into a snack food.
Legumes, pulses, beans—whatever you prefer to call them—are everywhere this year. Chickpeas are represented by Hippeas Organic Chickpea Puffs and Biena Chickpea Snacks, while Snapea Crisps and Peeled Snacks Pea Puffs both feature peas. Calbee Harvest Snaps are available in both pea and black bean versions. It’s easy to find legume snacks in traditional savory snack flavors such as cheese, ranch, barbeque, and sriracha.
Legume blends have also been successful. World Peas Peatos and Supereats Puffs both use a blend of peas and lentils. Frito-Lay’s Off the Eaten Path brand offers Veggie Crisps with peas and black beans, in addition to its Hummus Crisps made with chickpeas. In many cases, legume snacks are actually blends of legumes and grains, especially rice.
As the new trending oil (replacing coconut oil), avocado oil is now being added to a variety of packaged foods, including snack foods. Snacks containing avocado oil include Avocado Oil Canyon Cut Kettle Cooked Chips (by Boulder Canyon Authentic Foods) and Hawaiian Black Sea Salt with Avocado Oil Popcorn (by Pop Art Snacks).
Cassava, a root vegetable similar to the potato, has also made its presence known this year. Cassava snacks include Wai Lana’s Cassava Chips and Pops, Plant Snacks Cassava Root Chips, and NOVA CRISP Cassava Chips.
Dragon fruit, a sweet and brilliantly pink fruit also known as pitaya, has entered the snack foods scene. Pocas Premium Dragon Fruit Chips provides a crunchy chip version, while EVOLVE’s Supernola Dragonfruit Lemon Zest blends dragon fruit into an on-the-go granola snack. Dragon fruit is also a featured flavor in Welch’s Fruit Snacks Superfruit Mix.
Globalization of flavors is on the rise, and Indian flavors are spicing things up. Indian-spiced snacks include World Peas Peatos Masala and Organic Grounded Snacks’ Baked Grain Bites in Vanilla Chai (by Lundberg Family Farms). Masala Pop Popcorn carries a variety of Indian flavors, including Savory Masala, Tamarind Sesame, Chai Masala, Chai Caramel, Savory Coconut, and Original Indian Spice.
The distinct flavor of fresh, shaved truffles or truffle oil over a dish is a widely celebrated culinary delight. This year, the taste of truffles has expanded beyond fine dining into retail packaged products, including snack foods. Sweets & Snacks Expo featured several truffle-flavored popcorns and chips, including OOLALA Potato Chips in White Truffle & Parmesan and Black Truffle & Olive Oil and popcorn by Pop! Gourmet, Pop Art, and Live Love Pop.
Trends in Blends
A new type of snack mix gaining traction is two-in-one snacks, such as Kellogg’s Cheez-It Duoz. One variety of Cheez-It Duoz contains caramel popcorn and cheddar crackers, which provides a sweet-savory flavor combination, as well as two distinct textures.
Calbee’s Popper Duos combine two flavors of puffs in one bag. Available in combinations like BBQ & Ranch and Zesty Queso (which combines cheddar with salsa), Popper Duos can be eaten individually or combined to provide multiple flavor options, according to the company. The Popcorn Factory’s Kettle Krave Popcorn also offers two flavors in one bag, in combinations that include maple with bacon, honey with barbecue, and peanut butter with jelly.
“Snackfections” is a term coined by the Hershey Company to describe a new hybrid category that combines traditional confections with snacks. Several confection companies have pursued product innovation in this area in response to slowing growth in confections, with impressive success. Examples include Hershey’s Kit Kat Snack Mix and Mars’ M&M’s Sweet & Salty Snack Mix. Nestle released a Sweet & Salty Snack mix for three of its confection brands—Butterfinger, Raisinets, and Buncha Crunch.
Snackfections often blend chocolate with nuts, seeds, fruits, cookie pieces, or pretzels, which can be combined in a variety of ways beyond snack mixes. An example of this is Reese’s Crunchers, which are poppable bites of peanut butter chips, rice puffs, and peanuts, covered in chocolate, and packed in a resealable pouch.
Snackfections also provide an opportunity for snack companies to incorporate a little indulgence, especially via chocolate, into their products. Examples of legume snacks that added a snackfection to their product lines include Biena (Thin Mints Chickpea Snacks), Greenwave Foods (Eda-Zen Premium Toasted Black Edamame in Dark Chocolate), and Saffron Road (Crunchy Chickpeas in Dark Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Chai).
It’s no surprise that consumers look forward to new flavors and sweet treats, but what stands out the most this year is the interest in healthier snacks. When that snack attack comes, increasingly, people want to feel good about their choices. In fact, health and wellness snacking has grown by 6% each year over the past three years, according to Mintel, outperforming the conventional snacking market.6
To optimize your snack products for today’s discerning consumer, look to Watson for custom nutrient premixes that can incorporate proteins, fibers, omega-3s, probiotics, and other healthy and functional ingredients that can help your products stand out from the crowd.
Interested in learning more? Click to watch our video on choosing a Custom Nutrient Premix supplier.
1. Hartman Group. (2016). The Future of Snacking 2016. Retrieved from http://store.hartman-group.com/the-future-of-snacking-2016/
2. NPD Group. (2017). Snack Foods Are Increasingly Consumed at Main Meals and Gen Zs and Millennials Will Drive This Trend Over the Next Decade. Retrieved from https://www.npd.com/wps/portal/npd/us/news/press-releases/2017/snack-foods-are-increasingly-consumed-at-main-meals-and-gen-zs-and-millennials-will-drive-this-trend-over-the-next-decade/
3. NPD Group. (2017). Snack Foods Are Increasingly Consumed at Main Meals and Gen Zs and Millennials Will Drive This Trend Over the Next Decade. Retrieved from https://www.npd.com/wps/portal/npd/us/news/press-releases/2017/snack-foods-are-increasingly-consumed-at-main-meals-and-gen-zs-and-millennials-will-drive-this-trend-over-the-next-decade/
4. Mintel. (2018). US Plant-Based Proteins Market Report. Retrieved from https://store.mintel.com/us-plant-based-proteins-market-repor
5. Vierhile, T. (2018). 2018 Snacks Trends: Sweet & Tart. Retrieved from https://www.preparedfoods.com/articles/121039-snacks-trends-sweet-tart?
6. Lockwood, D. (2018). ‘Fresh’ Snacking is On the Rise. Retrieved from http://www.mintel.com/blog/food-market-news/fresh-snacking-is-on-the-rise