The Bottom Line:
- Pork rinds are appealing to low-carb and keto dieters.
- New flavors abound, including hot and spicy varieties.
- Premium brands are connecting with new pork rind consumers.
Pork rinds have been a snacking favorite for consumers for years, especially among Latino shoppers. However, the category has gone through some interesting evolutions, thanks to a number of emerging trends.
“The pork rind category has undergone a complete 180-degree change over recent years,” says Lauren Koston, owner, Pork King Good. “With more and more consumers turning towards better-for-you items and the popularity and success of the keto diet (and the reduction of sugar in general), what was once known as a truck stop snack with limited flavors outside of plain and hot, has now become a premium and trendy snack option.”
With producers on the prowl for opportunities to innovate in the category, pork rinds are reaching new consumers, and new snacking opportunities.
“In the past few years, we’ve been able to feed America their favorite snack and introduce more consumers to pork rinds than ever before,” says Mark Singleton, vice president, Rudolph Foods and Southern Recipe Small Batch Pork Rinds,” by offering different types of cracklings, new and inventive seasonings, new places where consumers can eat pork rinds, including restaurants, baseball stadiums—even providing new ways to think of pork rinds by providing recipes that our fans can use our snacks as an ingredient in new ways, including Carnivore Nachos, as a breading, and more.”
Source: IRI OmniMarket™ Total Store View | Geography : Total US - Multi Outlet w/ C-Store (Grocery, Drug, Mass Market, Convenience, Military and Select Club & Dollar Retailers) | Time : Latest 52 Weeks Ending 01-01-23
In order to ensure their products continue to appeal to current customers and appeal to new ones, pork rind producers keep their finger on the pulse of current and emerging trends. Drew Janzen, senior associate brand manager of EPIC pork rind brand owner, General Mills, says, “Our research and development team helps us gain insight into the salty snacks category and we’ve learned that conscious consumers are looking for products that EPIC delivers on: products with few, simple ingredients and great taste.”
Shundrikka Owens, chief marketing officer, Benestar Brands, says many pork rind consumers consistently want a number of perennial popular attributes in the category: quality, product selection, appealing price, and consistent availability. In addition, they are shopping with values like sustainability and traceability in mind.
“There is a segment of consumers who expect to know specifically where their food is sourced and that they are supporting the environment with their food choices. Brands such as Chicas (which is vegan and non-GMO) and 4505 (which uses only humanely raised, antibiotic free pork) provide permissible indulgence to those consumers where those attributes are keenly important.”
Singleton notes that the average income of the typical pork-rind consumer is on the climb—and, along with it, their expectations of the products available in the category.
“Today, one third of our consumers have an avg. income of $100,000+,” he notes. “The snack food category also has the most educated consumer it's ever had. Because of that education about food, snacking, what they’re consuming; pork rinds just hit their needs, checking a lot of the boxes. We’re a salty, crunchy snack that provides lower carbs, and the protein they need and are looking for. Throw into the mix of collagen and lower sodium wrapped into a versatile, savory snack, and you hit a home run.”
Thanks to the rise in low-carb dieting and keto consumers, pork rinds are in the interesting position of being increasingly viewed as a snack with health benefits. Janzen says that EPIC’s pork rinds offer appeal to active, health-conscious consumers.
“We feed trailblazers with grit who are always on the go, because we believe consciously-sourced animal products are superfoods that improve human health, animal welfare and land health,” he comments. “Packed with bold flavors that fit into every meal or snack session, EPIC pork skins are the perfect companion on road trips, in your pantry or at your desk.”
Koston notes consumers are looking for flavor adventures, as well as packaging sizes and configuration that fit in with their lifestyles: “We’ve seen growing demand for both larger, family-size bag options as well as variety packs,” she notes.
Owens says Benestar keeps track of trends but they avoid chasing “fads” in favor of sustaining “macro trends.”
“Low-carb is one such example this dietary life-style isn’t going anywhere,” she comments. “We continue to support this trend with our portfolio of delicious, satisfying chicharrones generously seasoned with more trendy flavor profiles that allow for safe exploration like Nashville Hot, Ghost Pepper Ranch, and Tajin.”
Owens adds that Benestar’s low-carb offerings include PORQ panko crumbs, which offer 1:1 substitution for traditional breadcrumbs in recipes.
Koston concurs consumers frequently dive into pork rinds due to a low-carb interest, something Pork King Good founders and staff can relate to.
“When it comes to low-carb and low-sugar snack and cooking options, we very much are our own audience and can easily spot gaps and opportunities in the market for products and flavor profiles,” she notes. “Pork King Good was founded by a woman who lost 100 lbs after eliminating carbs since 2013 and our whole mission is based on making a low carb way of living sustainable for the long haul. We frequently survey our loyal customers to identify new flavor profiles that they’re craving.”
Janzen says EPIC introduced its pork rinds in 2016 “as the wholesome and clean version of an iconic American snack food and created using traditional methods inspired by our grandparent’s generation.”
Plus, he adds, EPIC’s rinds are resonating with consumers looking for savory snacks at the intersection of health and indulgence.
“Our fans have positive reactions to our pork rind products so now we’re focusing on providing a variety of flavors that meet their taste needs,” he says.
Koston says Pork King Good seeks to offer products without ingredients many health-conscious consumers seek to avoid, such as MSG and maltodextrin, while still delivering flavor and texture.
“With so many flavor options, the brand has unofficially been dubbed ‘The Ben & Jerry’s of Pork Rinds,’” she says. “Pork King Good always goes heavy on seasoning, and focuses on texture, providing a fluffier and more melt-in-your-mouth product than anything else on the market.”
Recent and upcoming innovations
While pork rinds have seen a number of notable developments in recent years, such as baked rinds and novel flavors, producers note the innovations are just getting started. Janzen says the EPIC brand is finding success by turning up the heat with its pork rinds, with its EPIC Hot + Spicy Pork Rinds the latest addition to the line.
“Our instincts told us to look into the heat-seeking crowd, and these pork skins with a kick of Red Pepper and Chipotle Pepper Powder are the perfect carb-conscious snack,” he says.
According to Koston, Pork King Good has seen some notable innovation in its pork rinds in recent years, as well as adjacent to it—in 2021, they launched a line of seasonings that lifted its popular pork rind flavors and turned them into shakable blends to sprinkle on other items.
“As far as upcoming product launches, Pork King Good has some serious innovation up their sleeves - from first-of-their-kind pork rind flavors to an expansion into the frozen food space; the brand intends to continue blowing consumers away and disrupting the market, all while maintaining a wild sense of humor.”
Singleton says the company recently dived into development of a new product at the request of a customer.
“A few years ago, we were asked to make a small pork rind for salad toppers,” he relates. “We were skeptical as to whether it could be done. However, customers and consumers alike kept asking.”
After a period of trial and error, he says, “We uncovered a way to make a tiny little pork rind for salads. Next came the opportunity for innovative flavors, including garlic butter and more. That’s when the concept really moved forward.” The product, Krutones (pronounced “crew-tone-ez”) is poised for its nationwide launch.
Owens relates that Benestar will continue offering products aligned with current and emerging trends.“Chicas Corn Tortilla Chips and 4505 Meats are acquisitions that broadened our portfolio to include better-for-you snacks with unique cooking methods and product attributes that appeal to consumers with the spending power that is important to our retail partners,” she says. “That, coupled with our deep experience in creating tasty, delicious snacks, has further positioned those brands towards growth. Because as we all know, taste is king.”