We are poised at a significant point in time in the American snack industry. Over the past few years, at various points and to different degrees of intensity, we fortified ourselves with the necessities: sanitizer, toilet paper, and—yes—snacks. We are a nation of snackers, and we continually demonstrate our brand loyalty at the checkout counter—or internet shopping cart.

Retail snack sales have generally trended upward, and some to a notable degree. Now it’s a matter of maintaining momentum.

At the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of innovation was put on hold, or at least delayed. But the wheels of snack ingenuity began to turn as soon as conditions were right, and we are seeing a strong level of market innovation across snack product formats, flavors, and packaging.

But still, variables like supply-chain dynamics, machine fabrication backups due to overwhelming demand, and the current economic uncertainty pose ongoing challenges. That’s why now it’s essential to build up and grow your partnerships with ingredient, equipment, packaging, and logistics suppliers—companies that supply your formulation, production, and distribution essentials, but who can also partner with you to find opportunities for category innovation.

Consolidation and strategic maneuvering within the snack industry continues, most recently with the split of Kellogg Co. into three separate divisions for snacks (Global Snacking Co.), cereals (North America Cereal Co.), and plant-based foods (Plant Co.). We saw a similar scenario with Campbell Soup Co. when it acquired Snyder’s-Lance in 2018, subsequently forming Campbell Snacks. Since going public in 2020, Utz Quality Foods has been on a tear of strategic acquisitions.

The competition is heating up, and flavor, formulation, and brand innovation is a key path to growth.