Time to think outside of the bag. As consumer demand for better-for-you snacks is on the rise, so are manufacturers’ innovations in the chip category.

Alternative chips

“They want something good in there,” states Sean Olson, founder and CEO of ips All Natural, Los Angeles. “In response, you’re seeing chips made from different ingredients, touting a range of nutritional content and benefits.”

Alternative chips—those made from ingredients other than potatoes—are a major industry trend, and ips All Natural fits right in with its core product. ips chips are made with a blend of nongenetically modified (GMO) corn and egg whites. “Because egg whites are naturally rich in protein, ips have a nutritional profile like no other chips on the market, with 7 g. of protein in every 1-oz. serving,” says Olson. “By replacing a portion of the fat and empty carbs found in typical chips, we’ve created a snack that isn’t just ‘less bad,’ it’s actually got something in it that [consumers] want.”

The pressure-puffed snacks come in four varieties: Aged White Cheddar; Barbeque; Cinnamon; and Sea Salt and Black Pepper.

Another unique ingredient making its way into the chip category is coconut. Blue Monkey Coconut Collection, Burlingame, Calif., recently made its debut in the chip segment with its Coconut Chips.

“A great source of heart-healthy fiber (packing in a solid 7 g. per serving), Blue Monkey Coconut Chips are 100% natural, baked without preservatives, vegan and GMO-free and gluten-free,” says founder Simon Ginsberg.

How are they made? The coconut meat is sliced out of sustainably-grown coconuts and baked. The chips are available in Original, Wasabi and Ginger.


Fruit and veggie chips


Creating chips out of fruit is a natural evolution. BARE, San Francisco, makes All-Natural Apple Chips in response to the alternative chip trend. “Today’s consumer is savvier about nutrition and ingredients than ever before, and while consumers still won’t skimp on taste, many are expanding their horizons and straying away from the traditional potato chips,” states Cris Genovese, vice president of marketing. “There are limitless opportunities within the chip category for new ingredients, flavor profiles and innovative recipes.”

As of October, BARE released two new options in its All-Natural Apple Chip line—Sea Salt Caramel and Chile Lime. “The new Chile Lime Apple Chips combine the zesty kick of chilies with the cooling tang of lime, while the Sea Salt Caramel Apple Chips feature an irresistible blend of rich, melt-in-your-mouth caramel with a sprinkle of sea salt,” explains Genovese. The All-Natural Apple Chips are also available in Cinnamon; Fuji Red; and Granny Smith.

“Like many segments in the grocery store, the chip category is an incredibly competitive space that has been dominated for years by legacy brands,” Genovese adds. “In order to break through the clutter, we stay true to our founding philosophy of creating ‘Snacks Gone Simple,’ that are made with seven ingredients or less and nothing artificial ever. Our ability to make great-tasting snacks using whole-food, simple ingredients has helped us to convert new fans to the brand and create a growing base of loyal followers.”

Vegetables are increasingly finding their way into the chip category, too. General Mills’ Green Giant brand debutted a few different options of its Roasted Veggie Tortilla Chips. “Salty snacks, and specifically veggie snack chips, are a segment of the grocery store that has seen growth in recent years,” says Michelle Barbeau, marketing manager for General Mills’ savory snacks. “We see a great opportunity to further grow the segment by offering a tasty veggie snack chip, made by Green Giant, that can appeal broadly to consumers.”

The Minneapolis-based company’s Roasted Veggie Tortilla Chips are available in Zesty Cheddar and Garden Ranch. That’s not all, however. Green Giant also offers a line of Multigrain Sweet Potato Chips in Sea Salt and Barbecue.

“We think families can feel good about eating Green Giant veggie snack chips, given they are made with real vegetables and whole grains, and have ‘Giant flavor’ that the entire family enjoys,” says Barbeau.

Sweet potatoes are a popular alternative for chip manufacturers and have become a large trend in snacking all around. In September, Ballreich Bros., Tiffin, Ohio, hopped onto the trend by introducing its Sweet Potato Chips.

“They’re an all-natural product with three simple ingredients: Select sweet potatoes; cottonseed oil; and sea salt,” says Haley Thomas, director of sales and marketing. “Our sweet potato chips are a perfect alternative to conventional snacking for moms, teens and dieters.”

Ballreich also offers a line of standard potato chips in Regular, Bar-B-Q, Smokey Sweet Mesquite, Sour Cream and Onion, Salt and Vinegar, No Salt, Cheddar and Sour Cream; and Hot ‘N Sassy.


Specialty spuds


But when it comes to chips, you can’t leave out the potato. With the influx of alternative chips to the market, manufacturers are creating potato-based chips with creative offerings. “Flavor trends appear to continue moving toward ethnic inspirations such as Asian, Hispanic and Mediterranean,” states Luke Mapp, director of marketing for Mikesell’s Snack Food Co., Dayton, Ohio. “In Mikesell’s case, this includes flavor profiles that match specific tastes from those regions.”

The company’s ethnic offerings include Bold Jamaican Jerk in its Kettle line and Tuscan Spice in its Reduced Fat line. Beyond ethnic options, Mikesell’s has a variety of flavors to tempt consumers: Original; Zesty Barbecue; Honey Barbecue; Green Onion; Cheddar and Sour Cream; Mesquite Smoked Bacon; Good ‘n Hot; Sweet Chili; No Salt Added; Salt and Pepper; and Reduced Fat Original.

Classic Foods, Irvine, Calif., is also exploring ethnic flavors with its new chip offerings. Its Risi Papas Caseras family of brands has launched a new line of kettle chips to take advantage of the growing demand for Mexican flavors. The chips are available in Con Salsa, which comes with a packet of Guacamaya hot sauce that consumers can use to spice up the chips—Habanero; Adobadas; and Serrano.

Classic Foods also has a Kettle Classics line, which also offers some unique options. Standouts include: Sundried Tomato Basil; Spicy Jalapeno; Wasabi Ranch; Honey Dijon Mustard; and African Red Devil Pepper, a spicy and citrusy chip inspired by the African Piri Piri pepper. Other Kettle
Classic varieties include Natural; Mesquite Barbecue; Sea Salt and Vinegar; and Cracked Pepper and Sea Salt.

Ethnic flavors are just one way manufacturers are breaking the mold with potato chips. Others are looking into combining sweet and savory for chip options. This includes Kellogg’s Pringles brand, Battle Creek, Mich., which is bringing back its limited-edition options for the holiday season.

“We didn’t bring back the Pringles Pumpkin Pie Spice flavor and Pringles White Chocolate Peppermint this year,” states Teresa Lindsey-Houston, marketing director. “Instead, we’re offering Pringles Cinnamon and Sugar and introducing a festive new flavor: Pringles Pecan Pie.”

Mixing sweet and salty in the chip category is an emerging trend, which Lay’s, Plano, Tex., is taking advantage of with its new Lay’s Wavy Potato Chips Dipped in Milk Chocolate. The chips will only be sold in Target stores for a limited-time distribution through the holidays. A decadent snack indeed, Lay’s may be just the tip of the iceberg for this trend.

Whether made of fruits or vegetables, sprinkled with exotic spices or dipped in chocolate, the chip market is far from stale. Consumers can expect to see more unusual ingredients used now and in the future for the chip segment.