Thanks to early immigrants from Germany and the Netherlands, hard pretzels today continue as a quintessential American snack. In their most-basic forms, they are a study in beautiful simplicity. Adorned, they can carry a world of flavors. And most recently, novel pretzel formulations have shown great promise in yielding free-from, next-generation pretzels that meet the dietary needs of people following specialized diets.


Market data

Pretzels showed retail strength over the past year, growing the category by 13.1% to $1.6 billion in dollar sales. Category leader Snyder’s of Hanover—a Campbell Snacks brand—saw dollar sales growth of 6.5% to $551.0 million. But the big growth leader was again Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels, now a Hershey Co. brand, up 56.1% to $246.5 million. Utz Quality Foods also saw its pretzel products grow, up 18.1% to $152.4 million.

The chocolate covered salted snack segment within the “other snacks” category, which heavily features chocolate-covered pretzels, grew 25.6% for the year, per IRI, taking in $408.1 million in dollar sales. Flipz, a Pladis Global brand, saw impressive 40.0% growth to $99.5 million. General Mills, which makes Chex MixTM Muddy Buddies Pretzel Bites Peanut Butter & Chocolate, among other products in the segment, is close behind, up 26.8% to $96.7 million in sales.


Looking back

Pretzel producers continue to find ways to entice fans with interesting intersections of flavor and product format.

Campbell Snacks notes that it recently released a new Snyder’s of Hanover product, Nacho Cheese Twisted Pretzel Sticks. “Snyder’s of Hanover knows the Nacho flavor is a fan-favorite, so we are excited to introduce these crispy pretzels baked with big, irresistibly craveable Nacho flavor.” The products are available at retailers including Walmart, Kroger, Publix, Ahold, Wakefern, and more.

Honey mustard is a classic pretzel flavor option—and one that continues to resonate strongly with consumers. In 2021, Dot’s Pretzels—now a Hershey Co. brand—released a new Honey Mustard flavor as the third seasoning variety in its lineup of pretzels, joining Dot’s Pretzels Original and Southwest seasoned flavors. Dot’s Pretzels hit the market in 2012—initially just in the Midwest—and have seen significant growth since.

Dot’s Pretzels notes hundreds of the brand’s fans submitted requests via social media for a honey mustard flavor option. And while Dot’s is now close to a $250 million retail brand, per IRI, each new pretzel flavor is still created by company founder Dorothy Henke, known as “Dot.”

Dot’s Honey Mustard pretzels are already making waves across the American snack scene, and emerged as the top-ranked product in the Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery 2021 “Best New Snack & Bakery Products” evaluations.

Quinn Snacks, a company known for its innovative approach toward farm-to-bag ingredient sourcing and transparency, continues to innovate in the snack market. The newest product in the company’s lineup is Quinn’s Plant-Based Cheezy Style Filled Nuggets, formulated with lentil flour and a blend of other root vegetables, including Kansas-grown sorghum, a flavorful, ancient whole grain that is naturally gluten-free and better for the environment due to its drought-tolerant properties, notes Quinn Snacks. The company notes that these ingredient choices demonstrate the snack brand’s dedication to creating snacks that are not only better for you, but the world around us, as well. The pretzels are Non-GMO Project Verified, corn-free, soy-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan-friendly.

Pretzel Pete isn’t afraid of bringing some flavor adventure to the pretzel category. In late 2020, the snack producer released its seasoned pretzel pieces in Bacon Cheddar, Buffalo Blue, and Cinnamon Brown Sugar. Now the brand is voyaging into new territory with its Margarita-seasoned Mini Twists. The pretzels offer a distinctive lime and salt flavor. 

Stellar Snacks is also bringing a strong level of innovation to the pretzel category—and it’s a strategy that’s resonating with consumers, as the company has announced expanded production capabilities. The company has announced that it is adding a 475,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility in Reno, NV, with automated production lines. Its current facility occupies 100,000 square feet in Carson City, NV. Stellar Snacks reports that it has seen 91% year-over-year growth since entering the market in 2019, and is projecting 130% impending year-over-year growth.

Stellar Snacks unveiled its new line of flavor-forward, vegan, non-GMO, no MSG pretzels at the 2022 Winter Fancy Food Show, available in four flavors:

  • Bold & Herby—vegan butter braids seasoned with roasted garlic, onion, and monk fruit
  • Simply Stellar—the original vegan butter braid with sea salt
  • Maui Monk—a vegan butter braid sweetened with monk fruit
  • Sweet & Sparky—a vegan butter braid seasoned with spicy Buffalo seasoning and monk fruit

Stellar Braids are vegan, Non-GMO Project Verified, MSG-free, kosher, and peanut-free, and are baked with vegan butter. Stellar Snacks also empowering artists by collaborating on eye-catching packaging designs. Stellar Braids are currently available at Cost Plus World Market, Central Market in Texas, Whole Foods in Florida, Mariano’s in Chicago, and Ralph’s in Los Angeles.

Eastern Standard Provisions continues to expand its retail product footprint with the introduction of its new Sourdough Hard Pretzel Pieces. The pretzels are crafted with natural ingredients, including real sourdough. The Sourdough Hard Pretzel Pieces are packaged in a re-sealable pouch, so customers can enjoy them at home or on the go.


Looking forward

The retail hard pretzel market continues to see incrementally strong growth. Much of this growth stems from strategic innovations designed to capitalize on flavor trends and upscale product positioning, as well as entering existing whitespace in the category centered on people following specialized diets, like gluten-free and keto. Pretzel formulations based on non-wheat substrates, including heritage grains like sorghum and pulses like chickpeas, often strive to bring better-for-you differentiation to the marketplace—a multidimensional current running throughout the snack and bakery industry that will continue to drive growth.

Source: IRI Market Advantage, Integrated Fresh, Total U.S. - Multi Outlet w/ C-Store (Grocery, Drug, Mass Market, Convenience, Military and Select Club & Dollar Retailers), 52 Weeks Ending 04-17-22