Michael Averbook
Michael is a Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, specializing in the CPG food and drink industry. He provides strategic insight and consultancy across several categories.

Widespread snacking presents a huge opportunity for engagement across the food and drink industry. Varied uses, motivations, and openness to a range of brands, types, and attributes in the snack space provides points of entry for consumers and brands.

The Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago featured a mix of products focused on health as well as decadence, indicating there is enough space for better-for-you, indulgent, and even some “in-between” options in the snack space. Between the unique, diversified lineup of brands, formats, and flavors on display, the exhibit offered a glimpse of innovation into the future marketplace. Here are the six trends that emerged:

Bold flavor combinations

Honestly Veggie Popper Duos BBQ & Ranch

Looking to drive excitement within an already animated space, brands are tapping into bold flavor combinations. Two new launches – Honestly Veggie Popper Duos and The Popcorn Factory Kettle Krave! – are prime examples of the fusion of flavors trend. Honestly Veggie Popper Duos offers bite-size crunchy pea and lentil poppers in combinations including BBQ & Ranch and Zesty Queso featuring cheddar and salsa puffs. The Popcorn Factory’s newest brand Kettle Krave! has an array of savory combos including Buffalo Wing Bleu Cheese and Cracked Pepper Sea Salt, as well as sweet flavor fusions like Spicy Cocoa Peppermint and Bacon Maple.

The Popcorn Factory Kettle Krave! Buffalo Wing Bleu Cheese

However, duo flavored products aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel. Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts brand is revisiting the concept with a refreshed Pop-Tarts Splitz, back after the brand originally introduced them in 2007. The two new decedent options include Frosted Strawberry and Drizzled Cheesecake and Drizzled Sugar Cookie and Frosted Brownie Batter.

Key Snacking Stat: 71% of consumers snack at least 2-3 times a day

 

Plant Power

From The Ground Up Cauliflower Pretzels Original

As consumer interest in plant-based and alternative offerings gain traction, brands in the snack industry are quick to step up their innovation in the space. Although snacks have historically been somewhat plant-based, a whole new “crop” of fruits and vegetables are being tapped to be the base. From The Ground Up offers new snacks made with cauliflower including Cauliflower Pretzels and Cauliflower Crackers while Plant Snacks has a line-up of cassava root chips in flavors like Beet With Vegan Goat-Cheese and Super Seed Mix.

Plant Snacks Cassava Root Chips

Key Snacking Stat: 48% of salty snack buyers wish there were more healthy snack options

 

Functional

Vegan Rob’s Charcoal Puffs

With consumers – especially younger ones – taking a more holistic approach to health, functional ingredients have long been finding a home in food and drinks. Brands are integrating these cutting edge ingredients to bring function or benefits to snack time. Vegan Rob’s presented a diverse line of puffs and chips with Charcoal and Ashwagadha that promise detoxification and energy respectively. Wai Lana Cassava Chips Turmeric Cheese features two ingredients – cassava and turmeric – known for a variety of nutritional benefits.

Amplify Snack Brands Oatmega Cookie

Other sweet brands looked to provide a dose of indulgence and function. Bounce Energy Protein Balls make their function clear in the product name while Amplify Snacks Oatmega Cookies contain 12g of protein and omega-3s that help with brain development, immune system function, and blood pressure regulation.

Key Snacking Stat: 50% of consumers snack to treat themselves

 

Indian inspirations

Masala Pop Popcorn

Interest in international flavors continues to expand and brands are dabbling in foreign territory – this time with flavors from India. Indian flavors including chai, masala, and curry were featured in snacks like Peatos Masala and Organic Grounded Snacks Vanilla Chai. Masala Pop has a full line of Indian inspired popcorns in flavors like Indian Spice, Chai Caramel, and Savory Coconut. Even sweeter products like Raaka Virgin Chocolate had some influence from Indian flavors with their Smoked Chai chocolate bar variety.

Key Snacking Stat: 42% of salty snack buyers agree taste is more important than health

 

Popcorn and chips: now with truffles

Live Love Pop Truffle Salt Delicious Gourmet Popcorn

From savory to sweet and a little bit of both, gourmet popcorn and chips have been pioneers in flavor innovation. In a continued push to offer more elevated flavors, brands like OOLALA, Pop! Gourmet Foods, Live Love Pop, and Pop Art were sampling truffle-flavored offerings at the expo.

Key Snacking Stat: 41% of salty snack buyers like to try new kinds of salty snacks

 

White chocolate revival

Justin’s White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

White chocolate has waxed and waned in popularity over the years and it would appear the flavor is back in fashion. Well-known brands like Justin’s, Twix, and M&M’s are looking to start that revival, featuring white chocolate in classic offerings.

Key Snacking Stat: 67% of chocolate buyers purchase chocolate for a snack