Snacking goes premium, but stays true to its roots
Snack time brings on a level of excitement not unlike cartoons on a Saturday morning (yes, I’m a Gen-Xer). From the sometimes-chaotic snack time at daycare, to the now federally funded “Smart Snacks in School” regulations, and snacks on the go for Gen Z and Millennials, snack consumption is on a rapid rise. At the same time, the snacks themselves are constantly being redefined. Snack time—for most people—is, indeed, one of the sure things in life.
Technomic’s 2018 “Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report” highlights the broadening snack category and the trending replacement of meals—primarily lunch—with snacks. “As busy consumers continue to seek convenience and increasingly replace meals with snacks, look for grab-and-go boxes and heartier snacks such as wings and crab bites to fill the hunger gap,” says Kelly Weikel, director of consumer insights.
One of the key takeaways from the report is that 80 percent of consumers say they snack at least once a day. Yet “snacking” means something different to everyone. According to Technomic, 37 percent of consumers believe any food can be a snack if the portion size is small enough.
Something old is new again. Sounds like tapas or botanas, right?
Last November kicked off with the much-anticipated Oldways Whole Grains Council Conference in Seattle. As with all of its conferences, the expert lineup for 2018 covered the gamut from K-12 to seed developers and farmers, to meal-kit providers and chain restaurants. As expected, I walked away with a wealth of new on-trend information that I was excited to share, as well as integrate into product development and strategy planning with sales and marketing. One expert providing new insights was Melissa Abbott, vice president of culinary insights for The Hartman Group, with her session on “Whole-Grain Trends in Contemporary Food Culture.”
A major trend identified by The Hartman Group is “premium snacking occasions.” The premiumization of the most-basic pantry stable—the cracker—is an indication of the new convenience at play, Abbott said. Appealing to a healthier snacking culture requires innovation that speaks to ingredients and processing methods. The cracker category has up-leveled products with unique flour alternatives that go beyond gluten-free analogues.
As examples of this, The Maine Crisp Co.’s Buckwheat, Honey & Blueberries Crisps capitalize on a naturally gluten-free, organic base. Way Better Snacks offers Mustard & Cheddar Sprouted Barley Crackers featuring two grains (sprouted barley and flax) that optimize nutrients for easy digestion. And Grains of Health’s Laiki Red Rice Crackers utilize only three ingredients: whole-grain red rice, sustainably farmed palm oil and sea salt.
Among the top 10 trends of 2019 from Whole Foods is “snack time, upgraded.” One of the insights that strikes me most is the reference to snacking becoming an occasion of its very own. This couldn’t be truer, as we see snacks referred to as fancy, high-end and premium—with ingredients to match. The combination of the two is commanding significantly higher price points, capitalizing on the consumer’s willingness to invest in the mini occasion or experience, even if that means it’s taking place at a desk in front of a computer.
More takes on snacking nod to the comforting treats of your second-grade lunchbox, but with better ingredients. Portable snack packages this year will feature bites like prosciutto and aged mozzarella and artisanal versions of classic snacks such as cheese or peanut-butter cracker sandwiches. Ingredient-conscious snack and treat makers are creating new packaged snacks that take us back to our treat-loving childhoods, updated to accommodate special diets and more-sophisticated palates.
Upgraded retro treats will also star on 2019’s shelves: Candy-coated Project 7 Organic Chewies burst with intense fruit flavor and are gluten free; Smashmallow’s marshmallow and puffed-rice treats are gluten free and made with organic sugar; and Little Secrets Crispy Wafers are long, crunchy rectangles dipped in fair-trade chocolate.
Snacks, as they usurp the usual three-meals-a-day routine at an ever-quicker pace, will be anything but ordinary in 2019. Are you ready to satisfy this increasing demand?