I’ve long felt that the food industry presents the best of all worlds. Tradition holds considerable strength in food. A handful of cornerstone companies continue to drive the lion’s share of revenue across snack and bakery. These are tried-and-true brands that resonate with shoppers the world-over. Oftentimes, select brands lead their category by a significant margin. They’re household brands, and everyone knows them.
But even at such a high level, innovation continues. While the steady ships stay their courses, brand extensions related to better-for-you, allergen-free, clean-label and dialed-in demographic appeal drive incremental growth. Categories grow more diverse, and shopper baskets grow larger. Even iconic elven bakery mainstays like Keebler continue to innovate, as we see in the increasingly popular clean-label Cookie Thins line, our bakery winner of the Best New Snack & Bakery Products of 2016.
And then you have the upstart innovators—game-changers who bring fresh ideas to the mix (and often find themselves the object of acquisition interest…). Such is the case with The Little Kernel, a brand-new company that brings something truly new to the already-hot RTE popcorn market—and with a mission to boot (autism spectrum funding). Add in a celebrity connection (“The Real Housewives of New Jersey”) and the reach grows. But the innovation here is in the idea of selling a variety of popcorn that pops into smaller-than-usual kernels. It’s new, little and different. And The Little Kernel is our snack winner for the Best New Snack & Bakery Products of 2016.
Every year, the food industry reinvents itself continually anew. While the giants remain steady, competitors approach from all sides. And with a world of innovators out there dreaming of the next big thing, surprises are sure to unfold every year.