In 2015, we launched the “Best New Snack & Bakery Products” of the year contest to honor outstanding new snack and bakery products entering the industry, with the online Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery audience voting for their favorites. Since then, we’ve noticed that the winners often reflect that year’s current prevailing consumer sensibilities—from a strong gluten-free focus in the first year of voting (both winning products were gluten-free), to specialized with a health halo the second time around (with boutique ready-to-eat popcorn and thin cookies winning). Most recently, back in 2017, health and wellness took the driver’s seat (with plant protein bars and clean-label fruit chips on top). Through the years, the companies producing these snacks and baked goods have ranged from innovative mom-and-pop startups to some of the largest companies in the business today.
This year, the roster of candidates included many of these same attributes—including products ranging our full snack and bakery spectrum, from offbeat and category-defying to squarely appealing to the bulk of mainstream America. Better-for-you items factored in via use of whole and diverse grains, as well as pulses. Gluten-free once again had a presence. Paleo made an appearance. Artisan sensibilities were represented.
But after voting for our 2018 contest concluded in mid-December, two of the most-prominent privately owned companies in snack and baking emerged as victors—Utz Quality Foods and McKee Foods. And the winning products this year have significantly more widespread appeal than any of the previous winners. And, in a word, they’re fun.
Our industry perpetually faces specialty concerns that challenge product development to keep up with market demands. Free from. Clean label. Transparent. Sustainable. Local. Paleo. Keto. The list goes on and on…
In short (and not just when it comes to food…), we often end up taking ourselves way too seriously. We forget that food—and life—should be fun.
Yes, many of these aforementioned product-development trends will continue in some way, shape or form—perhaps even taking a lead here and there over time. Others will undoubtedly diminish. Such is the nature of this business.
But we need to regularly remind ourselves to stop worrying and just have some fun. And the winning products for 2018—Utz White Cheddar Cheeseballs “Baseballs” and Little Debbie Birthday Cakes—undeniably bring the fun. And as they demonstrated in this year’s Best Snack & Bakery Products of the year voting, the far-reaching membership of our industry agrees that we could all use a little more fun in our lives.
In order to learn more about these product launches, we reached out to Steve White, senior vice president and CMO, Utz Quality Foods, LLC, Hanover, PA, and Tara Wiese, brand manager, Little Debbie, McKee Foods, Collegedale, TN.
Best Snack Product of 2018
Product: White Cheddar Cheeseballs “Baseballs”
Company: Utz Quality Foods
Introduced: May 2018
Suggested Retail Price: $3.99
Douglas J. Peckenpaugh: Why did Utz seek to partner with Major League Baseball?
Steve White: As a nearly 100-year-old, family-managed company, Utz Quality Foods is proud to be affiliated with Major League Baseball. With us both placing great emphasis on quality, family, excellence and tradition, we saw this as a great opportunity to unite Utz and MLB fans alike.
DJP: What does the sponsorship entail?
SW: Utz has a multi-faceted sponsorship agreement in place which extends across television, digital media and more, making Utz the “Official Salty Snack of Major League Baseball.” Through this multi-year partnership, Utz plans to promote its assortment of snack food products with integrated branding across MLB’s broadcast and digital platforms, such as the MLB Network and MLB.com. Additionally, Utz will sell dedicated product offerings that feature MLB branding, available at retail locations across the U.S.
DJP: Why are salty snacks a good fit for baseball?
SW: Fans watching baseball and enjoying their favorite snack foods are a perfect combination. As a classic American brand with a deep and diverse portfolio of snacks such as potato chips, pretzels, tortillas and more, Utz aligns well with MLB and its fan base.
DJP: Did Utz create the White Cheddar Baseballs specifically for this sponsorship?
SW: Utz created the White Cheddar Cheeseballs “Baseballs” as a limited-edition offering specifically to introduce our new relationship with Major League Baseball. Utz “Baseballs” are an irresistible and perfectly crunch-able snack, highlighting all 30 Major League Baseball Clubs on the package. They’re delicious!
DJP: How did consumers react to the product?
SW: We received a tremendous response to the Utz White Cheddar Cheeseballs “Baseballs” product, consumers loved them! Even with the baseball season now closed, we are still generating requests for more Utz “Baseballs.”
DJP: Will Utz Baseballs be back for next year’s season?
SW: As the Official Salty Snack of Major League Baseball, Utz will continue to create unique and interesting snack foods, in addition to exciting fans with collectible baseball-themed packaging, incorporating all 30 Major League Baseball Club logos. To generate even more excitement in 2019, the Utz Team is readying a number of MLB-themed offerings that will excite fans and create new ones!
Best Bakery Product of 2018
Product: Little Debbie Birthday Cakes
Company: McKee Foods
Introduced: April 2018
Suggested Retail Price: $2.19
Douglas J. Peckenpaugh: What was the original idea behind the creation of Little Debbie Birthday Cakes?
Tara Wiese: The original idea was to create a celebration in a box while using a popular flavor. This product is inspired by the classic birthday cake with colorful sprinkles in the cake, birthday cake flavor, white icing and topped with more colorful sprinkles that look like party confetti on top.
DJP: What product characteristics make the Little Debbie Birthday Cakes unique in the bakery snacks segment?
TW: They are simply fun and playful, not to mention the product tastes as delicious as it looks. We included colorful candy confetti in the cake and used unique, round, multi-colored sprinkles to top it off.
DJP: How do products like Little Debbie Birthday Cakes fit into today’s snacking culture?
TW: These individually wrapped finger cakes are perfect for today’s snacking culture. The cake size allows for easy portability, and birthday cake is a flavor consumers want all year long.
DJP: How have consumers reacted to this new product?
TW: This product has become an instant favorite. When asked, consumers said they are purchasing Little Debbie Birthday Cakes due to the unique flavor. Sales have exceeded our expectations, and that is the best measure of a positive consumer reaction.
DJP: Do McKee Foods and the Little Debbie brand have any plans to release similar products in the near future?
TW: We learned a lot when it came to baking candy confetti into the cake! It definitely adds a celebratory element to the eating experience, and it would be interesting for us to bake up new ways to use similar ingredients in the future.
Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery posts details on new snack and bakery products hitting the market every week at www.snackandbakery.com/newproducts. To submit your company’s new products for consideration, visit https://www.snackandbakery.com/submit-new-products.