As seen in Mintel’s The Fifty, a look at fascinating markets around the globe, Americans are continuing to move towards more frequent snacking occasions alongside their three standard meals per day. As such, sales of foods that lend themselves to snacking – both healthy and indulgent – are gaining in popularity.

Our data shows that 76% of those who buy salty snacks agree there are more healthy options than there used to be, while 56% agree they are concerned about some of the ingredients in salty snacks (Salty Snacks US 2015). This was reflected at the 2015 Sweets & Snacks Expo, where consumer interest in sweet and savory snacks with innovative formats, exciting flavors and better-for-you (BFY) claims is being met by snack manufacturers. The Expo featured a variety of new product introductions highlighting several category trends from miniature formats, to BFY ingredients and brand extensions.

Five Trends in Sweets & Snacks

papa gummi bears1. Go jumbo or go miniature
Several existing products are taking a bigger or smaller approach to their traditional formats. Albanese introduced Papa Gummi Bears, a three inch tall gummi bear available in a variety of flavors. Wrigley introduced its Extra brand gum in a mega pack with 35 sticks. It’s the first front end bulk packs for gum in stick form and is sold in a durable plastic pack.

In contrast, brands that went mini included a variety of chocolate products. Nestlé’s Butterfinger Cup Minis, Ghirardelli minis chocolate squares, and Justin’s mini milk chocolate and dark chocolate peanut butter cups, all appeared on the show floor. The miniature formats directly align with a consumer desire for smaller, more permissible indulgences.

2. No/low/free-from options with alternative bases
Salty snacks in both familiar and unfamiliar formats continued to have a large presence at this year’s show. Traditional cheese puffs got an upgrade from brands including Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPUFF, which feature a blend of non-GMO corn, quinoa, and sorghum. As was the case over the last several years, quinoa appeared in sweet and savory snacks. Hi I’m Skinny brand introduced its new quinoa sticks in sweet onion and sea salt varieties, as well as sweet potato sticks. Its products feature low calorie counts and whole grains and are certified gluten free. Other bases, including rice, lentils and peas were also present in a variety of salty snacks. According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database, of the global food and drink products launched with a pea protein ingredient 2010-2014, products in the snacks category are among the top categories where pea protein is used, accounting for 15% of launches.

3. Brand extensions and licensing
Brand extensions were seen across both sweet and savory categories. Following in the footsteps of its Stride Sour Patch Kids gum, Mondelēz showcased its new Trident Layers Berry + Lemon Swedish Fish gum which hits stores in June. The company may be using the popularity of the Swedish Fish brand to help boost the declining gum category. Minions from “Despicable Me” also had TGIF happy hour snacksa visible presence on the show floor with a Tic Tac partnership that garnered a best-in-show award. Tic Tac Minions are limited edition candies that include the faces of the characters from the summer 2015 animated picture, “Minions.”

On the savory side, TGI Fridays showcased new additions to its lineup of restaurant-branded snacks. Its Happy Hour Snack Mixes are available in four bold flavors including sriracha ranch, sweet & spicy, cheddar bacon, and sweet barbecue. These offerings should appeal to the 25% of iGeneration/Millennials who buy salty snacks to try a new flavor, according to Mintel’s Salty Snacks US 2015 report. Each variety is sold in resealable packaging, appealing to the on-the-go snacking trend.

 

4. Jerky in many forms

Jerky and meat snacks were in full force at this year’s show. From beef, turkey and salmon, to pork, venison and bison, there was a protein option for everyone. Not only were there a variety of meat types, the flavor options were endless including basil citrus, black cherry barbecue, chile ‘n lime, and sriracha, to name a few. Many brands including Oberto and Chef’s Cut Real Jerky emphasized their premium quality meats and lack of preservatives.KRAVE Jerky made its first appearance under the Hershey’s brand umbrella after being acquired in early 2015. The acquisition allows Hershey’s to enter the growing meat snacks segment and expand its snacking presence in general.

 

butterfinger5. Natural reformulations
With nearly one quarter of non-chocolate confectionery users in the US citing natural ingredients as an important characteristic when purchasing, manufacturers are developing products with less artificial ingredients, including That’s It snack bars who emphasized the lack of artificial ingredients in their offerings during the Expo. Nestlé USA is one manufacturer working to reformulate its products to meet this demand. In February 2015, Nestlé USA committed to removing artificial flavors and colors from its chocolate and non-chocolate products (read more about the trend here).

These products will span 10 brands including Butterfinger, Crunch and Baby Ruth and will begin appearing in stores in mid-2015 hoping to gain a share of the 42% of sugar confectionery users who agree that products have too many artificial flavors and ingredients (Sugar Confectionery and Breath Fresheners US 2014). The company emphasized this initiative during the expo and sampled several products with artificial colors or ingredients already removed.

What These Trends Mean For Brands

The 2015 Sweets & Snacks Expo highlighted several trends within the candy and snacks categories. Consumers continue demanding high protein, BFY snacks, and manufacturers are responding with a variety of options from meat snacks, to lentil chips and quinoa puffed bites. However, indulgence is still top-of-mind for manufacturers who are introducing ways for consumers to indulge responsibly, whether with smaller formats or products with natural ingredients they can feel good about eating.

Amanda Topper is an analyst specializing in the food industry. She is responsible for writing monthly analysis reports providing strategic insight and consultancy across several categories from gluten-free foods and cheese to cereal and snacks.

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