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 SF&WB audience voting for their favorites.
Each year’s voting results has often run parallel to current trends:
- 2015: Gluten-Free, Lance Gluten-Free Sandwich Crackers and La Brea Bakery Gluten Free Sliced Sandwich Bread
- 2016: “Health Halos,” The Little Kernel Popcorn and Keebler Simply Made Cookie Thins
- 2017: Better-for-You, TERRA Plantain chips and PowerBar Plant Protein Bars
Last year, after three consecutive years focused on dietary specifics and health-and-wellness, the SF&WB audience clearly thought it was time for some fun, with Utz White Cheddar Cheeseballs “Baseballs” and Little Debbie Birthday Cakes taking top honors.
The 2019 roster of candidates included an innovative mix of prevailing shopper trends, including bakery products positioned with key dietary attributes like keto and probiotics, and with a strong focus on cutting-edge ingredients like collagen and mushrooms. On the snack side, we touched on mindful snacking with products that put vegetables front and center, as well as some ethnic influences and a lingering nod at gluten-free.
But we also had a bit of fun in the mix—and, taking a tip from last year, fun won the day.
Our “Best New Snack & Bakery Products” of 2019 are Hostess Birthday CupCakes, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the brand, and the innovative (and delicious) Top Knot, Wheelhouse, and Turnbuckle soft pretzels line from Eastern Standard Provisions.
Eastern Standard Provisions Co., Boston, released its new line of gourmet, handcrafted soft pretzels in shapes and sizes like Top Knot (7 oz.), Wheelhouse (4 oz.), and Turnbuckle (1.25 oz.). Eastern Standard Provisions is a new venture for restaurateur and James Beard Award semifinalist Garrett Harker, known for his Boston restaurants like Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks, Island Creek Oyster Bar, Row 34 and others. The pretzels are showing up in restaurants and bars across the Boston area, and in Market Basket locations throughout the Northeast. They’re also available online at https://esprovisions.com and on Amazon. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that the pretzels made the renowned “Oprah’s Favorite Things” list for 2019. A key differentiating factor for the soft pretzels is the available flavored salts: White Truffle, Everything Spice, Chili Lime and Lemon Rosemary, in addition to regular pretzel salt. The company also offers accompanying dips, like Haus Party Queso Dip and Get Lost Maui Onion Mustard.
Back in 1919, Hostess sold its first CupCake. A century later, Hostess Brands, Kansas City, MO, is an $850 million company and one of the most-beloved bakers of snack cakes and sweet goods in the world. To celebration this centennial milestone, Hostess Brands launched Hostess Birthday CupCakes as an LTO earlier in 2019. The CupCakes feature golden cake with rainbow sprinkles baked inside, filled with vanilla creme, and topped with vanilla icing and its signature Squiggle.
In order to learn more about these notable new product launches, we reached out to Lauren Moran, chief product officer and Garrett Harker, co-founder, Eastern Standard Provisions, and Chad Lusk, chief marketing officer, Hostess Brands.
Best snack Product of 2019
Product: Soft Pretzels
Company: Eastern Standard Provisions Co.
Introduced: April 2019
Suggested Retail Price: $17.99-$34.99
Douglas J. Peckenpaugh: What inspired the creation of this line of soft pretzels?
Garrett Harker: We have always served Lauren’s original pretzel recipe at Eastern Standard. And it has quite the following, with many folks saying it was the best pretzel they had eaten. Our other partners were in the consumer snack world for a time and they approached me about introducing a whole new audience to the pretzel. By that point Lauren had opened Honeycomb, but this was a great chance for us to work together again. It’s just such a versatile treat, great on its own, awesome complement to beer, can be made sweet, or tasty along with savory meats and cheeses.
DJP: How did you determine the Top Knot, Wheelhouse, and Turnbuckle product names?
Lauren Moran: Top Knot is in reference to our New England roots and the knots that sailors used, and still use, at sea. The maritime reference is also why we landed on our signature shape, the overhand knot. New England and the North Shore of Massachusetts are steeped in a history of sailing and fishing. In addition to our roots on the North Shore, we are a company that started in Kenmore Square, home of the Boston Red Socks. The Wheelhouse pretzel references the baseball term. Lastly, the Turnbuckle came out of the building of Honeycomb, my bakery in Hamilton. During the build-out, we removed a turnbuckle from the attic of the building. When barns were built years ago, the turnbuckle was a steel rod that was physically cranked to hold the sides of the barn up and prevent sagging. Our Turnbuckle pretzel mimics the rod shape and holds our company together!
DJP: How do these products provide something different for fans of soft pretzels?
LM: Our pretzels are unlike any other soft pretzel on the market. They are lighter and airier, similar to a French brioche bun inside with a nice dark crust on the exterior. They don’t fill you up as other chewier versions tend to. Because of our unique shapes, the shaping in the production process must all be done by hand.
DJP: What is the background behind Eastern Standard Provisions?
GH: Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks opened 15 years ago and anchors Boston’s historic Kenmore Square. We serve hundreds and hundreds of people a day, and we always try to make them feel like we’re welcoming them into our home. That’s always been at the core of our passion and motivation. ES Provisions just turns that philosophy around and tries to live up to the great honor of being welcomed into other people’s homes, and this time around the country.
DJP: How have customers responded to the soft pretzels?
GH: The response has been overwhelming. Our brewery partners recognize the Old World craftsmanship of an artisan product. Our bar and restaurant partners appreciate the fresh baked quality and the versatile salts and sauces that can make the eating experience totally unique. And I know families around the country appreciate the integrity of ingredients and the convenience of having a fun, craft baked snack ready to go from the freezer.
DJP: Are any new soft pretzels or other products in the works for 2020?
LM: We are working away on new products always! I would like to increase our line of sauces and toppings and we have started thinking about a gluten free pretzels!
Best Bakery Product of 2019
Product: Hostess Birthday CupCakes
Company: Hostess Brands
Introduced: February 2019
Suggested Retail Price: $2.99
Douglas J. Peckenpaugh: What inspired the creation of the Hostess Birthday CupCakes?
Chad Lusk: This past year Hostess celebrated its 100th birthday, our “Sweetennial,” and the brand’s longstanding tradition of surprising and delighting consumers since 1919. To honor our rich history of both iconic snack cake products and fresh, exciting innovation, we gave ourselves and our passionate fans this new sweet treat to enjoy.
DJP: How long was the LTO product in stores?
CL: That’s the great part! While Birthday CupCakes was initially launched as an LTO item in February, the overwhelmingly positive response from our consumers led us to add it permanently to our lineup. After all, birthdays are celebrated all year round!
DJP: Did the product pose any unique challenges to your production process?
CL: Given how many CupCakes we make each year, this product fit seamlessly into our highly efficient operations network. It’s a delicious golden cake with rainbow sprinkles baked inside, topped with decadent vanilla icing, more rainbow sprinkles and, of course, The Original Squiggle.
DJP: How did customers respond to this new flavor of CupCakes?
CL: The consumer response far exceeded our already high expectations for ourselves. Add a highly appealing and on-trend birthday cake flavor to what is already the most-eaten cupcake brand in America, and it’s no surprise that Birthday CupCake is already one of the top-performing items in our CupCake lineup.
DJP: What else did Hostess do to celebrate its 100th anniversary?
CL: We brought the party to America! As part our 100th birthday—or Sweetennial—we launched a national experiential campaign and sampling tour that traveled to 14 cities across the country in over two months, starting in New York City’s Times Square and ending in Los Angeles with a comedy roast of “affectionate mockery” emceed by Joel McHale. We drove the Twinkiemobile, an Airstream vehicle wrapped to look like a giant rolling Twinkie, along with Twinkie the Kid from city-to-city to allow us to engage with our consumers at a much deeper and more personal level.
DJP: Are any new flavors of CupCakes planned for 2020?
CL: Hostess is constantly introducing new flavors, contemporary concepts, and fun news to our iconic product lineup, and 2020 is no exception for CupCakes. As part of our one-of-a-kind Limited Time Offering program, consumers will be able to find Iced Lemon CupCakes, Mermaid CupCakes, Iced Pumpkin CupCakes, and more on store shelves.
SF&WB 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.