We’re always multitasking, so when you can’t decide whether to have something sweet or savory, why not have both? Consumers can, with a variety of new sweet and savory options.
Consumers are always multitasking—eating breakfast while driving, talking on the phone while typing, even watching TV while tweeting. So it’s no surprise that they’re also looking to multitask when it comes to snacks by shopping for products that offer both sweet and savory flavors.
Sweet-and-savory snacks are really taking hold in the grocery aisles. Fortunately for Funky Chunky, Edina, Minn., the company has a bit of experience in this arena. “Our company excels in this category and has been making sweet-and-savory [products] for more than 20 years,” states Tore Swenson, director of sales and marketing. “Funky Chunky consumers look to us to create exceptional flavor combinations that aren’t already on the market.”
Funky Chunky’s specialty is snack mixes made from popcorn, pretzels and even potato chips that are drizzled with chocolate and other sweet toppings. “For almost 20 years, our Chocolate Popcorn has been our number-one seller,” says Swenson. “In 2013, for the first time, Chocolate Popcorn fell to our number-two flavor, outshined by our Sea Salt Popcorn.”
Fully loaded on flavor
The Chocolate Popcorn isn’t just chocolate and popcorn, it’s a fully-loaded snack made with popcorn, caramel, almonds, cashews and pecans drizzled with white and milk chocolate. The Sea Salt Caramel Popcorn includes a mix of caramel popcorn, topped with milk and dark chocolate, salted cashews and more caramel. Funky Chunky’s other popcorn-based snacks include Candy Cane Popcorn, Caramel Corn, Ronnie’s Popcorn and Chip-Zel-Pop, a mix that includes potato chips, pretzels and popcorn covered in caramel and white chocolate.
So what could possibly be missing from Funky Chunky’s already robust line of sweet-and-savory popcorn-based offerings? Peanut butter. “Peanut Butter Cup is an indulgent, sweet-and-salty snack that is right on trend,” states Swenson. “This new flavor attracts the peanut butter cup lovers; we use peanut butter cups made with natural ingredients and redskin peanuts for extra crunch.”
The company doesn’t just stop at popcorn, though. It also has a line of pretzel-based selections including Chocolate Pretzels and Peanut Butter Pretzels.
Pretzels are a natural way to bring a savory-and-sweet option to the consumer. Snyder’s of Hanover, Hanover, Pa., is currently exploring the trend with its new Sweet and Salty Pretzel Pieces, which come in Salted Caramel and Cinnamon Sugar.
“Consumers have told us they seek out variety in their snack occasions, and one day they may feel in the mood for a savory snack and the next may crave something sweet,” states Bob Gould, marketing manager. “We see Sweet and Salty as an opportunity to capture additional eating occasions and feel that this product nicely compliments our current savory offerings.”
Sweet potato, savory chips
Another way snack manufacturers are combining sweet and savory is with the increased use of sweet potatoes.
“Once again, the sweet potato lends a sweetness that sits in perfect balance with the heartier, savory flavors of a fried potato,” states Steve Sklar, vice president and general manager of the snack division of Inventure Foods. “Last year, new snack introductions featuring sweet potato were up something like 1,200%, so it’s clear that consumer interest exists for the fusion of sweet and savory flavors.”
The Phoenix-based company heartily embraced the sweet potato with its summer release of Boulder Canyon Baked Sweet Potato Fries. The snack is made with all-natural ingredients and contains no trans-fats or cholesterol.
“For Boulder Canyon, recent product introductions have been about the fusion of sweet and savory,” says Sklar. “In fact, our Red Wine Vinegar kettle chips, in particular, have the traditional tang of vinegar, but they also feature a sweetness that makes them incredibly unique.”
This outside-the-box thinking when it comes to flavor profiles is standard for Boulder Canyon, as other interesting options in its kettle chip line include Olive Oil Totally Natural, Malt Vinegar and Sea Salt, Hickory Barbeque, Parmesan and Garlic, Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper, Jalapeno and Spinach and Artichoke. “Boulder Canyon is founded on the principle of deliciously simple ingredients that provide for a naturally better snacking experience,” says Sklar. “For us, it’s not so much about filling market gaps as it is about creating the best snack we possibly can.”
Turning the tables
Instead of using a savory base with a sweet topping to create a sweet-and-savory product, some snack makers are starting with sweet and adding savory. BARE of San Francisco is one manufacturer doing just that.
“When consumers snack, they look for both savory and sweet options throughout the day,” states Cris Genovese, vice president of marketing. “At BARE, we’ve experience growth that reflects this trend, as our Sea Salt Caramel Apple Chips offer consumers the nutritious, great-tasting snack options they are looking for.”
Added to the company’s offerings in October, the new Sea Salt Caramel Apple Chips are, like the rest of BARE’s products, gluten- and fat-free, kosher and vegan, and contain no genetically modified organisms (nonGMOs). They are part of a line that includes Cinnamon, Fuji Red, Granny Smith and Chili Lime options.
Another fruit-based chip company exploring the sweet-and-savory market is New Attitude Beverage Corp., Burlingame, Calif., maker of Blue Monkey Coconut Chips. The company first introduced coconut chips in the summer of 2012 and has been refining and experimenting with them ever since. It offers Original, Wasabi and Ginger Coconut Chips.
“Our new version that debuted in fall 2013 uses coconut nectar as a sweetener, thereby maintaining the all-natural quality of the product that has no preservatives,” says Mary-Jane Ginsburg, vice president of sales. “The new flavors of all-natural wasabi and ginger launched in summer 2014, and in the first quarter of 2014, chocolate ‘dusted’ coconut chips, our favorite, will begin to find its way onto store shelves.”
Joining the market
Bakeries are also getting into the sweet-and-savory market. The Christie Cookie Co., Nashville, Tenn., is just beginning to explore its options in this market segment.
“While we have not introduced anything formally, we started working with savory products in our R&D process and are planning to have products launched in the second half of 2014,” says Tony Schmidt, corporate chef and southeast regional sales manager.
Schmidt has found there have been some challenges in transitioning a typically-sweet product into a savory one. “The key challenge for us was integrating salt into a dough product without it becoming too salty,” states Schmidt. “We contemplated adding a salt inclusion, but determined this may be prohibitive to some customers. For that reason, our R&D team began to source out inclusion products that could be the perfect carrier for the salt and allow for proper dispersion of saltiness.”
A few bakeries have already cracked the code to sweet-and-savory cookies. One such bakery is Lark Fine Foods, Essex, Md., which has been offering sophisticated cookie options, or as they call it, Cookies for Grown-ups, since 2008.
Some of Lark Fine Foods’ sweet-and-savory options include Burnt Sugar and Fennel Shortbread, Salted Rosemary Shortbread and Scourtins, traditional French-style sweet-and-savory olive wafers. If consumers are interested more in sweet sophistication, they can turn to Lark Fine Foods’ other options: Cha-Chas; Coconut Butter Cookies; Whole Grain Espresso Chip Shortbread; Spiced Chocolate Krinkles; Whole Grain Lady Birds (oat cookies with cranberries and bittersweet chocolate); Lark Bark; Mighty Gingers; Polenta Pennies; Russian Tea Cakes; and Saint Nicholas Cookies (Dutch almond spice butter cookies).
Sowing the seeds of flavor
Some companies are leaving the creation of sweet-and-savory combinations up to the consumer. SuperSeedz, a product of Kathie’s Kitchen LLC in North Haven, Conn., is a variety of pumpkin seed snacks in sweet-and-savory options.
“We are introducing our core line to traditional natural foods and specialty stores,” says Kathie Pelliccio, founder. “We have chosen a completely untapped product format [in] pumpkin seeds. It is a great format for allergen-concerned consumers as well as those looking for a high-quality protein and other nutritional benefits.”
With flavor options like Sea Salt, Cinnamon and Sugar, Somewhat Spicy, Super Spicy, Coco Joe, Curry, Naked and Tomato Italiano, consumers can snack on just one flavor at a time, or combine them for their own sweet, savory, spicy experience.
Whether it’s chocolate and peanut butter or caramel and sea salt, sweet-and-savory is a classic flavor combination that’s getting a fresh take in the snacking industry. As a result, consumers no longer have to choose between a sweet or savory snack—they can enjoy “multitasking snacking.”