Natural Products Expo West

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Snack trends at Expo West from better-for-you and portion controlled to indulgent and gluten-free

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/Plateresca
Source: Getty/Plateresca

Related tags Snacks

Nearly a third of Americans are self-described “health-conscious snackers,” according to new research by YouGov, which also found 35% of healthy snackers are willing to spend more than $50 on snacks each month.

This is up from three years ago when YouGov found only 28% of Americans considered themselves as healthy snackers, and only 26% were willing to spend more than $50 on snacks monthly.

While nearly three-quarters of these snackers seek out fruits and vegetables in between meals, YouGov found a significant portion still want to indulge in chips (61%), cookies (47%), ice cream (38%) and candy bars (32%) – underscoring a significant market potential for brands that offer better-for-you and diet-specific versions of classic snacks.

At Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim last month, many brands and ingredient suppliers rose to meet the rising demand for healthy yet indulgent snacks, including newcomer Rivalz, fast-growing snack powerhouse Our Home, and established brands KIND Snacks, Wasa and My/Mochi – all of which share their innovations and insights in this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts podcast​. We also caught up with California’s Farmers’ Rice Cooperative, which launched an innovation arm at the trade show called Exceedient Foods to help meet demand for gluten-free snacks.

Rivalz rises to meet snackers better-for-you nutritional requirements

According to Mondelez’s recently released Fifth State of Snacking report, 69% of consumers report paying more attention to the nutritional value of snacks and 70% report paying more attention to ingredients that they believe are beneficial for them.

The report also found plant-based snacking is on the rise with 54% of consumers making an effort to eat more plant-based snacks and 57% looking to eat less meat and 46% trying to cut back on dairy.

Stuffed-snack startup Rivalz is checking all of these boxes, according to CEO Peter Barrick who explained the young brand offers consumers plant-based, salty snacks with the nutritional value consumers want, but with the nostalgic flavor profiles they crave and at a price point they can afford.

“What we are trying to do at Rivalz is provide great tasting, affordable nutrition to the markets worldwide with snacks that taste better, feel better do better,” Barrick said.

He explained Rivals have a vegetable-based crunchy outer shell with a nutrient-dense filling that is “packed with flavor and comes in three exciting SKUs: Late Night Pizza, Extra Cheddar Mac & Cheese and Spicy Street Taco.” It offers 8 grams of protein and 5 or 9 net carbs with less sodium than other leading salty snacks.

Wasa offers mindful moments for snackers

For many consumers, healthy snacking is not just about products’ nutritional profiles, but also how they are consumed – a trend that industry veteran Wasa is leaning into with a marketing campaign that focuses on creating mindful snacking moments with its crispbreads.

Wasa Associate Brand Manager Layne Hillesland explains how the more than 100-year-old company is appealing to modern consumers with a lifestyle marketing campaign that focuses on the crispbread’s simple ingredients and versatility for intentional snackers.

“You can use it for anything you want. We are showcasing today savory samples and sweet samples … or you can use them as croutons in a salad or as a topper for soup as well. So, it is literally about trying to take that and make it more versatile,” she said.

She added that because Wasa is so versatile and bigger than crackers it requires consumers to take a moment and think through what they want to eat – making it “much more about intentionality.”

Hillesland notes that modern snackers also want more with less, which means they are looking for short, familiar lists of ingredients that also offer functional benefits. Wasa meets this with a simple list of ingredients that also offer “great fiber” and associated health support.

KIND offers snacks tailored for different diets, children

Just as important to consumers as what is in their snacks, is what is not – and increasingly Americans want low- or no-added-sugar options, which industry veteran KIND Snacks is meeting with the launch this year of its Zero Added Sugar line of bars and the return of savory bars to its line-up.

KIND Snacks Senior Director of Communication and Brand Purpose Suejin Kim explained KIND was able to reduce the sugar in some of its bars by using allulose or leaning on salty spices for different flavor profiles.

Kim adds the new line of savory bars are a “different proposition” from KIND’s previous stab at the space with its Strong & Kind line, which included similar flavor profiles.

Kim also noted the company is expanding directly into children’s food with the launch of KIND KIDS school-friendly blueberry muffin and chocolate chip bars, both of which are free from tree nuts, peanuts and gluten.

Our Home offers snacks for everyone in the household – no matter their age or need

Just as KIND recognized children may need different snacks than parents, Our Home is building a portfolio of snacks around the idea that different members of the same household need different solutions – and it wants to provide them all.

Our Home Director of Marketing Megan Osowski explains that the company offers better-for-you options for “primal” cravings that she says differ slightly by generation and life stage, as does the consumer’s spending power, which is why the company offers a range of brands with different personalities at different price points.

For example, she said, Millennials and Gen Zers are looking for healthier options earlier in their life than previous generations, but they also want craveable, comforting flavors and branding that speaks to their personalities.

She noted Popchips have intergenerational appeal because the consumers who grew up with the brand now have young children – so it offers a better-for-you potato chip experience for parents and kids. Whereas You Need This, which launched last year, has a more youthful appeal with bright, poppy branding and different shapes, like churros and fries, that satisfy Gen Z’s desire for adventure and novelty.

Our Home also answers consumer demand for better-for-you snacks with crackers that have baked in vegetables across its From The Ground Up brand and its recently acquired RW Garcia brand.

Our Home also launched new crackers under its Food Should Taste Good brand, which Stephanie Latorre, SVP of marketing for Our Home explains can serve as a base for a mini-meal, which is another trend within snacking.

She notes that together the three cracker brands target different consumers and usage occasions.

Consumers' ‘everything in moderation’ attitude leaves room for portion controlled indulgence

Consumers’ focus on better-for-you snacks does not rule out indulgent options – rather, according to Mondelez’s State of Snacking report, shoppers are making space for decadent treats by adopting an “everything in moderation” approach.

For example, Mondelez found 67% of snackers look for options that are portion controlled – up five percentage points from last year – and seven in 10 say they would rather have a smaller portion of an indulgent snack than a bigger portion of a low-fat or low-sugar alternative.

Many consumers also turn to snacking for fun with three-quarters of those surveyed by Mondelez noting the novelty of the flavor and texture combination are important when choosing a snack.

Novelty ice cream brand My/Mochi meets these desires by offering bite-size frozen treats that are simultaneously chewy and creamy and which My/Mochi Chief Marketing Officer Brigette Wolf said come in a range of flavors and textures for different diets and lifestyles.

She also notes the brand is expanding into new day parts and usage occasions with new Waffle Bites, which, like the mochi, are portion controlled, gluten-free and convenient.

Demand for gluten-free snacks on the rise

By using rice flour as the base for its novelty ice cream treats and Waffle Bites, My/Mochi is tapping into the fast growing global gluten-free snack market, which Allied Market Research​ valued at $843.6m in 2021 and projected would grow at a compound annual growth rate of 8.3% to reach $1.8bn by 2031.

To help snack makers fill the unmet potential of the gluten-free snack market, California’s Farmer’s Rice Cooperative launched a new innovation arm and food processing solution at Expo West, called Exceedient, which FRC President Rick Rhody explains can help brands create a wide range of gluten-free snacks.

He notes that Exceedient brings together the co-op’s vertically integrated supply chain with ingredient manufacturing capabilities, including a new flour mill that will come online this spring, and the company’s deep R&D knowledge.

As illustrated by the vast array of snacks exhibiting at Expo West and consumers’ evolving dietary preferences, the opportunities in the space are near endless. But for those looking to learn more about where snacking trends are headed in the US, check out Mondelez’s Fifth State of Snacking report at​ or the YouGov research

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