Puffs, curls or Os—whatever their shape, extruded snacks are a significant part of the snack segment. Whether their products are savory, sweet or spicy, extruded snack manufacturers are experimenting with flavor options to tempt consumers.

“Consumers continue to seek variety and one-of-a-kind flavors in their snacking options,” states Luke Mapp, director of marketing for Mikesell’s Snack Food Co. “We have focused primarily on expanding our line with unique flavor profiles, while continuing to improve on our already consistent high-quality products.”

The Dayton, Ohio, company recently added two new options to its Puffcorn Delites line: Cinnamon Toast; and Buffalo. Other varieties include: Original; Cheddar Cheese; Movie Theater Butter; and Caramel. “Working with our partners, we continue to challenge ourselves and focus on our flavor profile strategy,” Mapp says. “We hope to continue to bring new and interesting options to our consumers in the coming months.”

Millennials are who Mikesell’s plans to target for 2014. Interesting flavor options are one way of bringing in the new generation, he says, and the company is hoping its snack-sized packaging will also be a draw.

“Capturing this demographic can be a challenge, due to Milliennials’ unique outlook on brands and their awareness of being marketed to,” adds Mapp. “Our snack-size option is perfect for on-the-go teen and Millennial consumers. We market to this target through our convenience store partners.”

A flavor profile that many manufacturers are leaning on is spice. KLN Family Brands, Perham, Minn., for instance, is bringing something spicy to its Dale Jr. Foods line of snacks.

“Dale Jr. Fries in Cheddar and Bacon and Hot and Spicy have recently been launched in our own label,” says Randy Johnson, vice president of sales and marketing. The fries join an already robust line of chips, also named after the famous racecar driver.

KLN Family Brands is also behind the Barrel O’ Fun line of snacks, known for a variety of extruded snacks: Cheese Puffs; Crunchy Cheese Curls; Cheese Balls; Kettle Pops; Corn Pops; Caramel Pops; and Cheese Pops.

Another company spicing up its extruded snacks is Rudolph Foods, Lima, Ohio. “We launched our Southern Recipe Cheesy Jalapeno Curls earlier this year,” states Mark Singleton, vice president of sales and marketing. “We added this product into our family of snack selections as a way to expand choices for consumers who are looking for convenient snacks with distinct flavor. The new snack is a hit with cheese lovers, as each bag is oven-baked with real cheese.”

The Cheesy Jalapeno Curls join Southern Recipe’s Sweet Southern Bar-B-Q Flavored Snack Rings in its extruded snack offerings. “We continue to look for new flavor and shape extensions to drive consumer trial and incremental sales,” states Singleton.

Healthful options

Snack manufacturers are continually recognizing the value of creating a healthful extruded snack. Wyandot Inc., Marion, Ohio, is working to meet this trend.

“In the past several years, there’s been a transition from traditional extruded snack cheese puffs for pre-teens and teenagers to more adult-oriented, better-for-you snacks,” says Daniel McGrady, vice president of technical services. “Specifically, we’ve moved from the ‘orange’ cheese-flavored kid’s snacks to Veggie Puffs and Fruit Puffs for the [better-for-you] channel.”

Under Wyandot’s Munch Rights brand, the company recently launched four new options of Veggie Puffs: Cheddar and Sour Cream; Tomato Herb; Sweet BBQ; and Sea Salt and Pepper.

Vegetables aren’t the only thing Wyandot is including in its extruded snacks. The manufacturer also makes Fruit Puffs in Cinnamon Apple. Both the Veggie Puffs and Fruit Puffs contain no trans-fats or preservatives and are gluten-free and certified kosher.

“As with all better-for-you snack offerings, the biggest challenge is designing a product that delivers exceptional flavor and crunch, while still having healthier attributes,” says McGrady.

“Wyandot has successfully accomplished this goal by creating the perfect blend of ingredients by forming partnerships with flavor and seasoning houses that bring new technology to the table. This gives us the ability to deliver excellent crunch and taste in a healthier version of the snack we all grew up with—the ‘orange cheese puff’—but now with more sophisticated flavor profiles.”

Another company recognizing the value of a better-for-you extruded snack is Classic Foods Inc. “The trends in extruded snack manufacturing are to achieve the nutritional value a consumer wants, such as reducing fat or adding healthier ingredients,” says Roya Rohani, vice president of marketing.

The Irvine, Calif., company added new Sweet Onion Savory O’s to its line of snacks. Savory O’s are baked and are gluten-, cholesterol- and trans-fats-free, making them
appealing to the health-conscious consumer. Classic Foods also offers Bandit’s Bounty, an Aged White Cheddar cornpuff snack that is also gluten- and trans-fats-free.

Creating an extruded snack free of trans-fats and gluten is important to many companies, including Herr Foods Inc., Nottingham, Pa. In 2013, the company unveiled its new Crunchy Cheese Sticks, which are gluten-free and contain no trans-fats. They are available in three sizes: 9.75-oz., 2.375-oz. and 1-oz.

Cheesy extruded snacks are big for Herr’s, as it also offers Cheese Curls in Baked; Buffalo Blue; Honey; Hot; and Jalapeno Poppers options. Its Snack Friez come in Cheddar Cheese; Cheesy Bacon Ranch; and Hot, Hot, Hot!

Shapely snacks

Fries, straws and sticks are popular shape choices for extruded snacks. Sensible Portions, an extension of Hain Celestial Group, Boulder, Colo., creates healthful extruded snacks like its Apple Straws in Cinnamon; Veggie Straws; Veggie Chips; and Potato Straws. The Veggie Straws are available in Lightly Salted and Rosemary and Olive Oil, while the Veggie Chips come in Sea Salt.

The Potato Straws contain 30% less fat than traditional potato chips and are available in Salt and Pepper; Sweet Barbecue; Original Sea Salt; Salt and Vinegar; and Smooth Cheddar options. Beyond straws, Sensible Portions also offers Miner’s Gold White Cheddar puffs in 1-oz., 4-oz., and 15-oz. bags. Miner’s Gold is only 130 calories per 65-puff serving.

Fries are a big part of Golden Flake’s offerings. The Birmingham, Ala., company offers Crinkle Cut Fries in Hot; Zesty Bacon; and Chili Cheese options.

Golden Flake’s other extruded snack options are Cheese Curls and Jalapeno Cheddar Cheese Curls, Baked Cheese Puffs and Jalapeno Cheddar Cheese Puffs, Puffcorn in Butter Flavor and Cheddar Cheese and Onion O’s onion rings.

Another company with a fries extruded snack option is Snikiddy, Boulder, Colo. Its Baked Fries come in Cheddar Cheese; Sea Salt; Barbeque; Original Seasoning; Classic Ketchup; Bold Buffalo; and Hot and Spicy. The fries do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), gluten, wheat or trans-fats. They are also cholesterol-free and certified vegan and kosher.

Snikiddy doesn’t just make fries, it also has a selection of Cheese Puffs targeted for children. With options like Grilled Cheese and Mac n’ Cheese, parents can feel good about giving the Cheese Puffs to their children as the product is nonGMO, contains no trans-fats and has only 120 calories per serving.

Cheese-, veggie- or fruit-flavored and shaped like rings, puffs or curls, extruded snacks are expanding their reach in the snack segment with innovative flavors and better-for-you options.