For every major food trend there is often a strong countertrend, according to Trends Editor Joan Steuer. In the snack and confectionery aisles, this Trend/CounterTrend phenomenon mirrors the powerful push toward health and the equally compelling pull of indulgence.
For decades, hundreds of research studies have shown the disparity between what consumers say they eat versus what they actually buy.
Gluten-free sales continue to skyrocket, yet baked versus fried cracker-chips, premium cookie thins, whole grain crispbread snacks and pita chips in both sweet and savory flavors are gaining shelf space in specialty, natural and mainstream channels. Some trend trackers claim the “80/20” rule is even more evident now in snacking throughout the day — 80 percent of very health-conscious eaters indulge 20 percent of the time, while the reverse is also true — 80 percent of indulgence seekers are very health conscious in their eating habits 20 percent of the time.
Under each of the six trends versus countertrends highlighted below are products that seem to have dual appeal to the better-for-you snack seeker and the indulgent snack lover.
Gluten-Free vs. Pita Chips & Crispbreads
The gluten-free trend continues to gain momentum; however, on the countertrend side, I have spotted more than 20 new products and/or brands of sweet and savory pita chips, and crispbread snacks including six ingredients or fewer Primizie Foods Inc.’s “Grilled” Thick Cut Crispbreads, an Italian crispbread/chip hybrid in romanced flavors including Smoked Dutch Gouda & Garlic, New Mexico Mild Chimayo Chile Lime and new Simply Salted with French Velvet Grey Sea Salt.
Thin and crispy or thick and crunchy, the latest pita chips are often baked, then toasted for added crunch. Ozery Bakery Inc.’s Cranberry Pumpkin Seed Crispy Pitas have dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds and sea salt for a sweet and salty snack.
Value-Priced vs. Superpremium
Shoppers are conditioned to track down deals and discounts, and now there are apps that help users price-check and locate sale items, as well as store and manufacturer coupons from lots of different stores. Value pricing will always be valued. Yet, the wildly successful everyday premium confections sector has proven that sweets lovers will pay more for more high-end offerings.
Simultaneously, superpremium small-batch chocolates and $5 to $8 specialty chocolate bars continue to satisfy cravings for special occasion luxury chocolate. In the near future, I predict the emergence of a strong premium-plus chocolate and confectionery segment. Priced above everyday premium, premium-plus equals daily affordable luxury without the hefty price of superpremium.
A recent premium-plus chocolate product is Kohler Co.’s Original Recipe Chocolates’ Terrapin Trail Mix. Turtle-type nut-studded caramel squares are mixed with white, milk and dark chocolate chunks, dried fruits and nuts — essentially, all the ingredients found in individual terrapins.
Nuts vs. Superseeds
Nuts, especially almonds, have gained hero stature in salty snack products and chocolate bars, panned items and glazed confections; however, given the extreme drought in California and escalating nut prices, manufacturers and consumers are turning to alternative ingredients, including superseeds such as flax, chia and quinoa. Alter Eco Foods currently offers a dark chocolate quinoa bar embedded with quinoa rice crisps, and International Harvest Inc.’s organic Go Brooklyn Munchies! Quinoa & Chia Chocolate Bites are crunchy, bite-sized 62% chocolate rounds sweetened with organic cane sugar.
The next emerging superseed in snacks and confections — Hemp. Hemp seeds can contain as much as 36 percent protein, all nine essential amino acids and are currently available in chips, snack bars and protein bars. In natural specialty store products, dense chocolate truffle-like bites now have added hemp seeds and/or are rolled in hemp seeds. Perhaps kale chips sprinkled with hemp seeds will be next.
Popcorn vs. Protein-Added Snacks
New popcorn items from indulgent kettle corn to low-fat products continue to fill retail snack shelves and endcaps. Launching at the Expo is Popsalot Gourmet Popcorn’s California Cruisin’, air-popped popcorn and toasted slivered almonds with creamy almond butter blended with made-from-scratch caramel and Meyer lemon.
Popcorn still occupies a snacking sweet spot; however, a range of new protein-boosted snacks are appearing on natural, grocery, drug and alternative retail shelves.
Some feature traditional whey protein, but many of the latest products use pea protein and/or other plant protein derivatives.
Betty Lou’s Inc.’s Nuts About Almond Butter and Nuts About Peanut Butter Energy Balls have 12 to 13 grams of protein, derived from a blend of both whey protein isolate and concentrate, and pea protein isolate. Boundless Nutrition has a line of gluten-free, all-natural Perfect Cookies in peanut butter, oatmeal raisin and snickerdoodle flavors, with 10 grams of “grass-fed” whey protein (from cows in New Zealand), sesame protein concentrate, omega-3 chia seeds and an antioxidant blend with decaffeinated green tea extract and vitamin C.
Added protein is also transforming traditional comforting classics into healthy, high-protein mini-meal snacks. Jacy Cakes, LLC’s FlapJacked protein pancake mix sweetened with dried fruit is packed with 15 to 17 grams of protein, and So Delicious Dairy Free’s Almond Plus 5X non-dairy beverage also claims five times the protein of most other almond milks.
Coconut Chips vs. Fruit & Veggie Chips, Chews and Twists
While sweet and savory coconut chips continue to flood specialty stores, natural food retailers, supermarkets and mass merchandisers, the “stealth health” movement is not-so-secretly moving into mass retail. Gluten-free Terra Chips now offers “Fruits & Vegetables” chips including Sweets & Apples, sweet potato and apple chips with a hint of cinnamon, and parent company Hain Celestial Group partnered with the non-profit Seed Savers Exchange, dedicated to preserving and distributing heirloom seeds. Clif Bar Co.’s Clif Kid Organic ZFruit + Veggie Twists were launched earlier this year, and although the flavors have child-friendly fruity names such as Mango Mania, Cheery Cherry and Blueberry Blast, and the peel-apart ropes also include carrot purée, sweet potato and beet juice, and lemon — surprisingly, none have any of the fruits they are named for.
TropiKale, launching in June, is The Naked Edge, LLC’s Veggie-Go brand’s newest gluten-free organic fruit-and-veggie snack, blending kale, the enduring veggie sensation, with mango, the world’s most popular fruit. Sweet potato, kiwi, apples and guava are also used to naturally sweeten it, and each chewy strip contains half a serving of fruit and half a serving of vegetables.
The company’s founders successfully raised funds on Kickstarter two years ago to launch the business, and the most popular flavor available nationally is Mountain Berry Spinach.
Indicative of a sustainable cross-category trend, fruits and veggies have also extended into frozen novelties with Veggie Mama frozen Garden Pops, Ruby Rockets frozen fruit and vegetable pops and Palapa Azul Smart Pops with frozen fruits and veggies.
Corn Tortilla Chips vs. Beans & Rice Chips and Puffs
Sales of corn tortilla chips are still going strong with new bold flavors, more baked options and innovative marketing initiatives; however, as more Gen Xers and Boomers continue to seek out corn-free chips and gluten-free salty snack alternatives, bean-based and rice-enhanced snacks are starting to gain traction in specialty, natural and alternative retail channels and on mainstream shelves as well.
Aiming to take a bite out of the $9 billion-plus potato chip segment, the largest salty snack segment in the U.S., SeaSnax, a “kid-inspired family business . . . whose kids eat seaweed like candy,” has launched Chomperz seaweed puffs, the first non-GMO-verified seaweed snack. It’s made from sustainably harvested seaweed coated in rice flour into a unique crispy, crunchy puff in original, barbecue, onion and jalapeño varieties. SeaSnax also introduced wasabi, almond and sesame SeaSnax Stix, crispy seaweed strips.
Another standout is the corn-free Beanitos Puffs from Beanitos Inc., in white cheddar and hot chili lime, made from navy beans and long grain rice flour, with four grams of fiber they are certified low glycemic as well.
Sweet and savory flavors of garbanzo beans and hummus chips have been around for a few years; however, Maya Kaimal Fine Indian Foods’ Chickpea Chips seem to be the first to actually call a chickpea chip by its rightful name in lieu of a creamy spread. Could be a trend.