The puffed and extruded category mostly experienced growth from 2021 to 2022. Consumers are also searching for better-for-you flavors, and the category aimed to accommodate.


Market data

According to IRI (Chicago) data from the past 52 weeks, which ended on April 17, 2022, the salty snacks category was up 10.1%, with total sales of $31.5 billion.

The “other salted snacks (no nuts)” category brought in $6.574 billion, with a nice 18.4% increase. Frito-Lay brought in $2.656 billion of this, with a 27.5% increase, and the Funyuns brand brought in $498 million, with a 2.2% increase. SunChips brought in $374 million, with a 0.1% increase. Others to watch are Sensible Portions, which brought in $261 million but experienced a 34.7% uptick in sales, and Pirate’s Booty, which brought in $148 million and rose by 44.6% in sales.

The cheese snacks category was up 8.9%, with total sales of $3.288 billion. Cheetos led the way, with $2.46 billion in sales and an 8.3% increase, and Cheez-It brought in $202 million, with a generous 32.1% increase in sales. Chesters brought in $128 million, with a 10.6% increase, and Utz brought in $102 million, with a 7.1% increase.

The “corn snacks (no tortilla chips)” category experienced a 13.2% jump in sales, with $1.869 billion in overall sales, and Fritos was the category leader, with $1.049 billion in sales and a 5.2% increase. Chesters took in $217 million in sales, but experienced a 6.3% decrease, and PopCorners brought in $201 million in sales, with a whopping 137.4% increase. Another to note is Doritos, which brought in $56.6 million in sales but had a 128% increase.

The pork rinds category brought in $629 million in sales, and experienced a 5.6% uptick overall. Baken ETS brought in $124 million of that share, with a 32.3% increase, and Macs brought in $120 million, with a modest 2.2% increase. Golden Flake brought in $69 million, but experienced a 2.2% decrease. One brand to note here is Rudolphs, which brought in $6.582 million but had a 44.1% increase in sales, as well as Mutt & Jeff, which brought in $6.955 million but had a 32.5% increase in sales. 4505 brought in $10.93 million but had a 32% increase, as well.


Looking back

The puffed and extruded category overall did well over the past year, as more people were still snacking at home due to the pandemic.

“A major trend that we’re continuing to see is better for you snacking; customers have a desire for real food, and real ingredients,” says Elizabeth Doval, marketing director, innovation, Schuman Cheese, New York, NY.

“Functional snacking is also popular, as people are snacking more often and looking for nutritional options to replace or serve as a bridge between meals. Dried fruits, jerky, cheese, chicken and beef chips, pork rinds, and other similar snacks are on the rise,” she notes.

On April 26, 2022, Whisps released its new Cheese & Pretzel Bites, says Doval.

“This is the first pretzel on the market that brings real cheese and real nutrition to a traditionally nutritionally-void category. Our Cheese & Pretzel Bites combine 100% real, artisanal cheese exclusively available to Whisps with clean label pretzels to create something with more protein (from one ingredient—cheese!), lower carbs and more crunch/flavor than what’s on the market. They come in three flavors: Cheddar, Honey Mustard, and Everything,” she finishes.

In June 2022, Frito-Lay released a new flavor, Flamin’ Hot Sweet Carolina Reaper—the most “over-the-top” flavor that Cheetos has every introduced, says the brand.

The brand also did a TikTok promotion for it: Chester Cheetah held auditions on TikTok to find the most interesting reactions to the brand’s newest flavor. Fans were able to pick up the product at their local Walmart, try it out, and share their most dramatic reactions on TikTok with #CheetosReaperReactions.

Other spicy puffs and extruded snacks, like pork rinds, continued to be popular over the past year, and some brands even released seasonal variations: in September 2021, Southern Recipe released holiday varieties. The new flavors included Cranberry Jalapeno and Apple Cinnamon.

Better-for-you snacks continued their reign, as well. Sandra Payer, head of marketing, Calbee America, Inc., Fairfield, CA, says that at Calbee, they’re proud to have been pioneers in plant-based snacking, which continues to be one of the biggest food trends on the market today.

“While plant-based ingredients can include things like starchy potatoes or corn, Harvest Snaps are a true veggie-first snack that always feature farm-picked green peas, red lentils, or black beans as the first ingredient. These real veggies are milled in-house to include the nutritional value of the entire legume, so consumers are reaping the true benefits of a plant-based product,” she notes.

Harvest Snaps recently launched organic Artisan Sea Salt Baked Green Pea Snacks. Featuring a sprinkle of sea salt in every bite, the USDA-certified organic snacks are made with whole organic green peas as the first ingredient and are packed with plant-protein and a good source of fiber, Payer says.

“Like Harvest Snaps’ original lineup of veggie snacks, they’re always baked, certified gluten-free, vegetarian-friendly, and contain no artificial flavors or preservatives, no GMO’s, no wheat, no soy, no nuts, no peanuts, and no eggs.”

Another recent introduction is Harvest Snaps’ bag-in-bag, six-pack offering of its better-for-you veggie snacks, including its best-selling Lightly Salted and Tomato Basil flavors, along with new Crunchy Loops Sour Cream and Onion.

“Perfectly portioned and ideally sized for lunchboxes, backpacks, or handbags, the single-serve snacks in this multi-pack make it easy to enjoy a healthier, satisfying snack while on-the-go,” Payer finishes.


Looking forward

“As we look to the future, I think there’s an opportunity to elevate the category with more innovative flavors and ingredients,” says Payer.

“With this in mind, Harvest Snaps is currently developing an exciting, tasty, veggie-based line specifically designed for the salty snack aisle. Stay tuned!” she notes.

Doval says that Whisps is continuing to focus on real cheese.

“Our snacks are made from artisanal cheese and are high in protein with clean labels. We see ‘better for you’ snacks as a major opportunity in this category and are excited to keep innovating,” she comments.

Indeed, the “better-for-you” category should continue to grow in 2022 and into 2023. EPIC Provisions broke into the pork rinds category in September 2021, releasing its Salt & Vinegar Pork Rinds. The rinds contain 8g of protein per serving and 1g of less of total carbs per serving, and are keto-friendly and gluten-free, as well as paleo-friendly. They use pork skins raised without antibiotics, and are fried in pork lard.

Also in September 2021, better-for-you brand LesserEvil released its Sun Poppers and PeaNOTS. The Sun Poppers are made from upcycled watermelon and pumpkin seeds, and the PeaNOTS are made from organic pea protein. A water-efficient crop, peas use seven times less water per gram of protein than regular nuts, supporting LesserEvil’s mission to make snacking more sustainable.

With vegan, gluten-free, better-for-you, and even flavor mashup options entering the market, the puffed and extruded category should continue to be interesting to watch in 2023 and the years to come.

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