Pretzels are starting to take a larger market share in the snacking category, as manufacturers look for unique ways to compete with and overtake chips and crackers.

What’s the best type of snack? Something bold, sweet, savory, crisp or crunchy? Fortunately for consumers, with pretzels they can have it all.

“One of the biggest trends we continue to see is the expansion of bold-flavored snacks,” states Bob Gould, marketing manager of Snyder’s of Hanover. “Consumers are craving variety and expecting bigger, bolder, nontraditional flavors. They welcome sweet and salty items in this traditionally savory category.”

In response to this trend, the Hanover, PA-based company introduced a new line of Sweet and Salty Flavored Pretzel Pieces in Cinnamon Sugar and Salted Caramel. “Our recent innovations in the Sweet and Salty line are how we are listening to consumer feedback,” says Gould. “It’s a no-brainer that consumers love flavor, so we plan to continue our flavor expansion and explore different ways to deliver on taste and variety.”

Snyder’s of Hanover is also expanding its variety of flavors in its gluten-free line by offering Hot Buffalo Wing and Honey Mustard and Onion Pretzel Sticks. “Our new Gluten Free Flavored Pretzel Sticks offer shoppers who are looking to remove gluten from their diets a flavorful option,” says Gould.

Perhaps Snyder’s of Hanover’s boldest innovation isn’t in its flavors, but in its new Pretzel Spoonz—spoon-shaped pretzels made for dipping.

So what’s next for Snyder’s of Hanover’s pretzels? “Without giving too much away too soon, there is a growing popularity in light and crispy snacks,” states Gould. “Combining light and crispy with healthy snack options is an area we recognize has a lot of room for growth.”


Evolving shapes, formats

Pretzels have been moving more into the cracker market for a while, as many manufacturers create a lighter, airier and flatter product. Rold Gold, Plano, TX, is exploring the trend with its new Rold Gold Pretzel Thins. Launched in the spring, they are available in Original, Garlic Parmesan and Three Cheese.

Between rods and crisps, one may think that pretzel makers are leaving the traditional knot behind. Not so for Tell City Pretzels, Tell City, IN. The knot is here to stay and literally bigger than ever.

“Our pretzel has been made in Tell City since 1858,” says Brad Smith, president. “Since 2009, our goal has been to [show] off the unique Tell City Pretzel to a much larger market.”

Pursuing a market looking for an artisanal product, Tell City Pretzels offers its knots and Pretzel Stix in Original. However, consumers who want a little more zing can turn to its Tell City Pretzel Pieces in Honey Mustard.

Pretzels are gaining market share in various other segments. Already challenging crackers and chips, pretzels may also be gaining traction in the bakery segment, as your favorite bagel might have some competition from New York-based Dream Pretzel’s Pressels.

“After years of stagnation in the pretzel market, we can see an awakening involving new shapes and flavors,” states Gilad Zilberberg, CEO and owner. “Pressels are a unique pretzel/chips combination with a special texture and refreshing mix of Ethiopian sesame and scattered spices to create an everything New York bagel sensation.”

The nongenetically modified organisms (GMO) Pressels come in Original, Everything and Sesame options.

“[At] Dream Pretzels, we share the idea of producing a product that can be eaten with no guilt whatsoever and still be full of taste made from the best natural products we can find,” adds Zilbergerg. “Pressels are all about nature in the 21st century, a combination of modern way of life and traditional spices.”


Shape of things to come? 

Pretzel flats and crisps are one thing, but what about balls and nuggets? Those shapes are Pretzel Pete Inc.’s specialty.

“Our newest product is Pretzel Budz, small round pretzel balls (about the size of a pea) that we are launching in two kid/family flavors: Cinnamon Sugar and Cheddar Cheese,” says Karl Brown, president. “Due to the smaller size and softness of the pretzel balls, this product is easier on the teeth than most pretzel products.”

The Lansdale, PA, company not only explores different pretzel shapes, but is experimenting with pretzel flavors.

“Our company concentrates solely on flavored pretzels, so our view comes from that perspective,” says Brown. “I grew up in pretzel country (Lancaster, PA), and pretzels were a staple in our kitchen growing up. As I worked outside of the area…I discovered that pretzels were virtually unknown outside of the mid-Atlantic area and those that tried pretzels often found them too bland.”

To combat bland pretzels nationwide, Pretzel Pete offers a variety of unique options. Its nugget-shaped pretzels come in Honey Mustard, Garlic and Cheese, Sour Cream and Habanero and Cheddar and Ale. Those looking for something with an international flare can try the pretzel balls in Sriracha, Coconut Curry, Szechuan and Wasabi.

“We feel pretzels are poised for strong growth in the years ahead due to several factors,” says Brown. “As a baked product, pretzels carry a well-deserved reputation as a low-fat, lower-calorie snack, which dovetails nicely with the national trends of healthy snacking.”

There is a pretzel shape that, while not new, is particularly innovative. It’s not a square, circle, rod or knot; it’s a tube. Mars Chocolate North America’s COMBOS brand of snacks have been around since 1980, offering a unique way to enjoy pretzels with a little extra flavor. Luckily for many, the Hackettstown, NJ, company is making it easier to party with COMBOS.

“This year, Mars Chocolate North America launched the COMBOS Party Bag, a new 15-oz. bag,” says Roy Benin, chief consumer officer. “The Party Bag is available in the three most popular COMBOS Brand flavors: Cheddar Cheese Pretzel, Pizzeria Pretzel and Cheddar Cheese Cracker.”

Not quite to the party yet, but still available in 1-oz. bags is COMBOS Buffalo Blue Cheese Pretzel, continuing the snack’s market share in delivering bold flavors.

Chocolate coatings and more

Mars is not one to ignore new trends in snacking, however. The company plans to introduce a sweet and savory option of its popular snack sometime next year.

“In 2015, COMBOS Brand will launch two new items that combine sweet and savory flavors: COMBOS Caramel Crème Pretzel; and COMBOS Vanilla Frosting Pretzel,” says Benin.

Creating a sweet and savory product is a natural fit for some companies, like DeMet’s Candy Co., Stamford, CT, maker of FLIPZ coated pretzels.

“As in most food categories, consumers are continually seeking new varieties and flavor combinations,” states Stuart Hendrickson, senior brand manager. “We are capitalizing on the consumer’s desire for snacks that are a combination of salty and sweet. Our chocolate-covered pretzels are offered in Milk Chocolate, White Fudge and Dark Chocolate.”

The company also recently added a Chocolate Mint option to its line and has a unique way of reaching new consumers. “To reach moms and teens, we have engaged in several partnerships to allow our products to be consumed while teens are engaged in some of their favorite activities,” states Hendrickson. “We partnered with Major League Gaming and Nitro Circus to reach teens and families with kids. In addition, we have engaged in several movie tie-in promotions to leverage the snacking and entertainment combination.”

To leverage its partnership with the summer launch of X-Men: Days of Future Past, DeMets rebranded some of its FLIPZ products for a limited-edition run. Options include Mutant Milk Chocolate, Wolverine White Fudge, Mystique Chocolate Mint and Magneto Dark Chocolate.

“These limited-edition varieties feature character-inspired flavor names, eye-catching graphics and an invitation to enter a sweepstakes to win an X-Men adventure vacation experience,” explains Hendrickson.

Looking for more? To coincide with Valentine’s Day, DeMets is planning to launch a strawberry-coated pretzel in the first quarter of 2015.

Pretzels and chocolate are a natural fit to get a sweet and salty fix in one snack, but what happens when you add nuts and dried fruits? You get Pretzel Perfection Clusters. The Vancouver, WA, company’s Clusters are available in Salted Caramel; Spicy Cherry Pistachio, made with spice-infused chocolate, cherries, pistachios cashews and dark chocolate; and Ultimate, a combination of pretzels, butter toffee peanuts, peanut butter chips, milk chocolate and toffee.

Not only are these treats gourmet sweet and savory, they also happen to be gluten-free. “Our founder, Amy Holyk, started the company with the intent to make a better-tasting, gluten-free snack for herself and her family,” says Kate Gouldschaal, marketing director. “Holyk was dissatisfied with the lack of diversity (and flavor) in the gluten-free snack market. So, she set out to create a better snack that she wanted to eat and would be proud to feed her friends and family.”

Pretzel Perfection’s distinctive gluten-free offerings continue in its line of Twice-Baked Pretzel Sticks. “For choosy moms, teens and people on-the-go looking for a quick snack, our Twice-Baked Pretzel Sticks are just the ticket,” states Gouldschaal. “With five bold flavor combinations, there is a Twice-Baked Pretzel Stick that is sure to please even the most finicky of snackers.”

The 110-calorie snack is available in Chipotle BBQ, Garlic Herb, Lemon Toffee, Stoneground Mustard and Tomato Basil.

Experimenting with flavors and shapes is one way that pretzels are competing with chips and crackers for snackers’ attention. As a healthier alternative to many other savory snacks, pretzels are a tough competitor in the snacking segment.