Joel Gregoire
Joel is the Associate Director for Mintel's Canada Food and Drink Reports.

Salty snack consumption is on the rise. The industry continues to adapt to evolving consumer needs and it is reaping the benefits. While Canadians primarily see salty snacks as a treat and a means to satisfy their cravings, the majority of eaters of salty snacks also indicate that they wish there were more healthy options. Furthermore, a segment of consumers, and particularly younger consumers, have a more flexible view of what salty snacks can deliver to them aside from being an indulgence. Understanding what consumers are looking for in salty snacks is essential for companies to capitalize on the growth of what is a competitive industry.

Here, we spotlight three opportunities in the salty snack market:

Offering healthier salty snack options

While salty snacks are typically regarded as indulgent, as opposed to healthy, a substantial majority of snackers claim they wish there were more healthy options. Women are more likely to hold this view, though the attitude is still prevalent among the majority of men.

When asked what innovations snacking consumers were interested in, salty snacks that include functional benefits (eg protein) rank among the top. When consumers were asked about what they think makes salty snacks healthy, low sodium, low fat, low calorie and high protein rank among the top considerations and represent the areas that are likely to produce the highest potential return.

Assert a broader set of reasons for eating salty snacks

While there is no denying that considerations around enjoyment and indulgence represent the top reasons for eating salty snacks, satisfying a craving and treating oneself ranks as the main reasons for why consumers eat salty snacks.

However, there are secondary reasons that consumers, and particularly younger consumers, have for eating salty snacks. Consumers point to satisfying hunger, making activities more enjoyable and eating on the go. Younger consumers are a prime audience for positioning salty snacks not only as treats, but as a credible option in instances where there are functional needs to be met.

Creating ‘hybrid’ salty snack options

Without disregarding the importance of ‘tried and tested’ favorites, salty snack consumers are undoubtedly open to combining formats and flavours signifying that there are few boundaries for the segment. According to Mintel research on salty snacks in Canada, when consumers were provided a list of innovations and asked what they are most interested in, the top-ranked choice was combining sweet and savoury flavours followed by brand crossover from other types of snacks. Proving that consumers are open to innovation in the space, hybrid products with chips that are similar to crackers also ranked high. Our research shows that new formations in the space has been a contributing catalyst for growth.

What we think

While potato chips remain the salty snack of choice, consumers are responding to more expansive innovation in the segment. Leveraging an array of different formats, flavours and functionality, salty snack sales continue to grow as the segment extends traditional boundaries beyond being just a treat, but rather, an option that can be more comprehensively integrated into one’s diet.