There was a time when the snack food industry viewed the Snack Category as Salty Snacks and Candy. Snacking has broadened. IRI's State of the Snack Industry 2011 illustrates how snacks are now becoming Cross Category products.
Food Industry Trends in the Snack Food Category
All of this was getting me hungry so I decided to call my go-to snack expert, Perry Abbenante, VP Marketing for Pretzel Crisps about snack trends for 2012 and some of his insight from their "Rethinking your Snack Survey".
Snacking and Cross Category Trends
Category Migration is a relatively new phenomenon in retail grocery. ( Organic Food Trends for 2011 point to growth driven by brands crossing categories, following their customers throughout their supermarket journey.) Why? Well supermarkets practice what is called Category Management. Categories are somewhat artificial in creating a name for products with similar characteristics, merchandising them together in an aisle and managing the group as if it is a stand-alone business managing revenues and costs… driving a "profit" target. The problem here is consumers are not thinking like retail buyers and merchandisers and this is where the snack category is a great place to look at how consumers view snacking.
The Search for Satiation
Search for Satiation driven by consumers wanting "fullness" means the snack food industry is driving new product development of foods that satisfy immediate hunger. Snacking products are rolling out into categories such as Cereal/Granola Bars, Yogurts, Dried Fruit and Appetizers. Pretzel Crisps flavors combos like Garlic Parmesan and Jalepeno Jack along with Chobani Yogurts, Wonderful Pistachios and the Dan-o-Nino line of kids' yogurt products provide unique snacking options that satisfy consumer hunger conveniently.
"Snacks are not just the snack aisle anymore. When people snack they want to put something good in their body" according to Perry. I see this as a challenge to traditional merchandising and category management since these category lines are mostly from the retailers perspective. Just ask a busy mom… this time starved consumer's perspective is on meal preparation . Vendors have always wanted to change Category Management boundaries. When I was in branded foods I always wanted to combine our pasta sauces and Italian frozen entrees without the artificial lines of "the category".
Health & Wellness Revolution
Consumer are trying to eat healthier with 71% surveyed claiming to be on the healthier journey. Healthier segments are outpacing indulgent snacks 4 to 1. Brand examples are Pringles Light Chips, RiceWorks Salsa Fresca Brown Rice Crisps and Nature Valley Nut Clusters.
Changing Consumer Behavior
Perpetual Snacking is represented by the 8 to 9 meal occasions per day along with the Small Bites Phenomenon exemplified by Cervecería 100montaditos small sandwiches and Starbucks Petites mini desserts. Pretzel Crisps meets both trends with the Pretzel Crisps Pairings examples like Reuben Crisps, Slider on a Crisp and Tortellini Delight!
Flavor Mashups are illustrated with the growing list of new product launches in Popcorn. It is now a "blank canvas" for a variety of sweet and savory flavors. One example of many at the Winter Fancy Food Show was Cobra Corn.
A Bite of Substance
"People are looking for better-for-you snacks, people still love to snack on indulgent things, snacks, meals and overall trend to health and wellness" according to Perry. So why is this happening? What does this mean for new product development and new product launches? Perry said "How you eat is a good indicator of how you will live. Just look at Walmart finding ways to incorporate Front of Packaging labeling (FOP) in their new Great For You program. As the largest retailer this should mean they are pretty much up on trends." Perry and I agree that if Walmart is promoting FOP then this may indicate a tipping point for the food & beverage sector and in particular the snack category. Just look at the growth in super concentrated detergents… Walmart took the lead early on and Walmart does create momentum.
FOP will lead to new product development in the snack food industry. Close to half (46 percent) of 18 to 49-year-olds want to make snacking a major part of their day instead of the three traditional meals, compared to only 31% of their 50 and older counterparts. ,
Almost nine in ten (86 percent) Americans take the health content of their snack foods into consideration, which is good since 60 percent confess they usually consume more than the recommended portion of their snacks. Why do you call them Wise Snackers? "I think we wanted to come up with a segment name… they look at nutrition and occasionally want to indulge. Snacks have become a meal replacement for things they like to eat, mostly breakfast and lunch, not so much dinner" according to Perry. "Pretzel Crisps came from the snack inventors and we have always had a focus on healthy, this is the driver for everything. We have and always will use this as a navigational device"
Snack Time Profile
Snacking is becoming a large part of many Americans' days; 59% prefer to sample a variety of treats instead of sticking to the same snack routines. More parents than non-parents, 66% vs. 56% prefer an assortment of go-to snacks instead of sticking to the usual snack food suspects, traditional salty snacks. What would this picture look like? Is this the new security blanket? Consumer Motivation here seems to be a blend of convenience, health and affordability.
The Snack Time Profile may be affected by the Flavor Mashup trend so I asked Perry how does Pretzel Crisp compete with the ever growing list of flavored popcorns? "There are inherent limitations to category groups and pretzels are no exception. Our products work well with new and indulgent flavor combinations such as white chocolate covered peppermint pretzels that we launch for the holidays. Many consumers view them as addictive. Our Chipotle Cheddar and Jalepeno Jack are examples of a a blank canvas pretzel. We feel the pretzel is a great vehicle for interesting and exciting flavors".
Perry ended with great advice for other brands, "Stick to what you do best and we do. We want are brand to be in the consumer's wheel house and Pretzel Crisps will be one of their go to snacks".