Pretzels / Potato Chips / Cookies/Crackers / Tortilla Chips / Snacks

The secret lives of snacks

December 10, 2012
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Is that crunchy snack consumers are craving a chip, a cracker or a crisp? It could be all of the above, as manufacturers are creating more snacks that cross over into multiple market.

Imagine, if you will, a chip that’s not a chip, a pretzel with a sweet side or popcorn parading as a crisp. There are snacks out there with a secret identity, gaining market share outside of their original categories. Crossover snacks are everywhere, and they’re getting easier to spot on grocery store shelves.

Classic Foods Inc., San Francisco, produces snacks that lead double lives. Its Baked Classics potato crisps are marketed as “savory snacks without an ounce of guilt.”

“The Baked Classics line itself encompasses both sweet and savory snacks, with Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper and Mesquite BBQ competing in the salted chip category,” says Roya Rohani-Cuetara, vice president of marketing.

However, Classic Foods’ crisps aren’t just grabbing a share of the chip market, they’re also creeping into cookie territory.

“Our Baked Classics Vanilla Frosting is a multigrain crisp that competes in the sweet-snack category, but at the same time, competes with other traditional desserts, such as cookies and cakes, as a healthier alternative,” states Rohani-Cuetara.

The Baked Classics line isn’t the only product it’s producing that is giving chips a run for their money. This year, Classic Foods introduced Poptillas, popped tortilla chips that are a hybrid of a crisp and a tortilla chip. Available in Yellow Corn, Salsa Verde and Nacho Cheese, the chips are made with all-natural ingredients and whole grains.

Classic Foods’ crossover success can be attributed to the healthful nature of its products. “The popped snack category is emerging in this better-for-you snack market, and consumers are looking for the healthier alternative product that doesn’t sacrifice taste,” Rohani-Cuetara explains. “We reiterate that Baked Classics and Poptillas are popped, not fried; contain no cholesterol, no MSG and no preservatives; and are gluten-free and kosher-certified. They are only 120 calories per bag and taste is never sacrificed.”

Also exploring the popped-snack category is Kellogg’s. The Battle Creek, Mich.-based company recently launched its Special K Popcorn Chips, sending popcorn to compete in the chip category. Available in Butter and Sweet and Salty, the chips mimic classic popcorn flavors at only 120 calories per serving.

Popcorn is the key ingredient in another crossover product, Poplets, produced by Centennial, Colo.-based Rocky Mountain Popcorn Co. Looking to also capitalize on a healthier snack alternative, Poplets are super-convection-baked, nonGenetically Modified Organism (GMO), bite-sized pieces of puffed corn.

“Gone are the days when a pack of cigarettes and a greasy snack from the roller grill were the only options at your local convenience store,” says Tim Bradley, chief operating officer. “We are out to shatter the false perception among traditional convenience demographics that healthy snacks tend to be overpriced and taste bad. These, my friends, are not your father’s rice cakes.”

Poplets will be available in early 2013 in Asiago Ranch, Sea Salt and Butter and Chile Picante varieties. The new snack will be Rocky Mountain Popcorn Co.’s first product beyond traditional popcorn.

“It begins and ends with taste, because no one snacks for a poor tasting experience, which is why we only make the most delicious products and strive to create new lovers of our products every day,” says Bradley.

What’s in the mix?

Sometimes it’s not the snack that’s crossing over, but the ingredients that cross into a new category. For instance, do pomegranates conjure up thoughts of crispy snacks? They do for Simply 7 Snacks, Houston, which has been experimenting with alternative ingredients to create crisps and chips for the snack market.

“Our Pomegranate Chips were introduced to buyers in July and just hit stores shelves in October,” says Paul Albrecht, vice president. “They contain 58% of the antioxidants you would find in pomegranate juice.”

The Pomegranate Chips are offered in Sea Salt, Black Pepper and White Cheddar varieties.

Simply 7 Snacks’ goal is to create snacks that are healthful and bring something extra to its consumers’ busy lifestyles. “On-the-go consumers want healthy or better-for-you alternatives, with added benefits such as antioxidants from our Pomegranate Chips or proteins found in our Lentil or Hummus Chips,” says Albrecht.

Some manufacturers have been in the crossover product market for quite some time, like Snack Factory, Princeton, N.J. Its Pretzel Crisps have always been a crossover product, competing in the pretzel and cracker categories.

“For starters, we’ve rethought the pretzel by placing a modern twist on an old favorite and creating the world’s first spreadable pretzel cracker,” says Perry Abbenante, vice president of marketing. “Flat-baked, thin, crunchy and only 110 calories, we’ve combined the best parts of a pretzel with the versatility and dipability of a cracker.”

The Deli Style line of Pretzel Crisps offers seven varieties from which the consumer can choose: Original, Garlic Parmesan, Buffalo Wing, Everything, Sesame, Jalapeno Jack and Chipotle Cheddar. The Modern Classics line goes a step further with Classic, Supreme, Tuscan Three Cheese and Cinnamon Toast offerings.

“Consumers expect a versatile crossover snack product that can fulfill more than one role without losing sight of its original purpose,” states Abbenante.

A sweet side

Further enhancing Pretzel Crisps’ crossover abilities are the company’s Holiday Indulgents line, available in Dark Chocolate and Peppermint and White Chocolate and Peppermint. They allow the pretzel/cracker hybrid to compete in the candy market.

“Part candy and part salty snack, they combine the better-for-you qualities of our Original Pretzel Crisps with the indulgence of a sweet treat,” says Abbenante.

The holidays can bring out the sweet side of many traditional savory snack products. Pringles, owned by Kellogg’s, is offering its own limited-edition line of sweetened holiday crisp offerings.

“More frequently, brands are introducing limited-edition flavors as consumers make taste a larger part of their seasonal experiences,” states Angela Gusse, associate director of Pringles marketing. “The Holiday crisps are the first new flavors Pringles has introduced since the 2010 line extensions of both the Xtreme and Multigrain crisps.”

The Holiday line is available in Cinnamon and Sugar, White Chocolate Peppermint and Pumpkin Pie Spice varieties. “With this crossover product, we chose seasonally inspired flavors to encourage consumption during a time of tradition,” says Gusse.

Going nuts

Tradition plays a role in how companies create or recreate products. Nuts have always been a source of protein and a reliable healthy snack, but many snack manufacturers are striving to create extreme and innovative nut varieties to capture consumers’ attention. Sahale Snacks, Seattle, created Sahale Crunchers to take nuts to a new level.

“Our new, award-winning Sahale Crunchers are the perfect handful of healthy snacking goodness,” says Edmond Sanctis, co-founder. “This great-tasting snack adds a crunchy zing to salads, pasta, rice, oatmeal, yogurt and more.”

The on-the-go snack is available in three varieties: Almonds with Cherries, Apples and Maple; Almonds with Cranberries, Sesame Seeds and Honey; and Almonds with Parmesan Cheese and Herbs. “We are watching out for that next delightful, surprising and intriguing combination of flavors that will make consumers say, ‘Wow, I want more!’” states Sanctis.

Bake it ’til you make it

Bakeries are also getting in on the crossover action. Granola has traditionally been viewed as a cereal, but New England Natural Bakers, Greenfield, Mass., is ensuring that consumers see its All Natural Grab and Go Clusters as an on-the-go snack option.

“Clusters are [a] single-serve, grab-and-go granola snack made with whole grains and nonGMO ingredients,” says Larry Cornick, marketing manager. “[They] offer us brand flexibility, and our products can now be found in the vending, convenience and institutional channels.” The 2-oz. bags come in Chocolate Toasted Coconut, Peanut Butter Cookie and Cranberry Almond Crispy options.

Another bakery making headway in an alternate category is High Performance Muffins of Boonton, N.J. “High Performance Muffins were specifically designed to compete against similar, but less healthy, snacks,” says Angela Hubert, owner. “More broadly, High Performance muffins are also designed to fit into the snack space in general, and even act as a quick, healthy meal.”

Meal replacement is typically a role performed by bars, but High Performance Muffins are making headway in this category, she says. “Our goal was to make a delicious, guilt-free snack or quick meal that actually can help improve issues such as heart health, cholesterol levels, weight maintenance, blood pressure and diabetes instead of contributing to them,” says Hubert.

Made with gluten-free rolled oats and naturally sweetened with honey, High Performance Muffins are available in Vanilla, Chocolate, Vanilla Pumpkin Spice, Chocolate Banana and Vanilla Banana.

High Performance Muffins plans to branch into the meal-replacement sector, as the company is currently developing lunch and dinner lines of muffins in options such as Buffalo Chicken and Sweet Potato.

Thus, the secret lives of some popular snacks aren’t so secret anymore. Consumer demand for healthier options and unique ingredients has encouraged snack manufacturers to create products outside of their primary categories, making crossover snacks more common in today’s marketplace.  

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