Monthly Archives: January 2013

Healthy Snack Innovations: Which to Love and Which to Be Wary Of

When fending off hunger cravings, most snackers prefer to eat healthy snacks, with 78% of the snacks consumed being reported as healthy. The good news for snack companies and consumers alike is that a large demand for healthy snacks creates a need for healthy snack innovation. According to Mintel, creating nutritious snacks is no longer a trend, “but a competitive necessity. When coupled with health and wellness trends, staying in the healthy snack market necessitates constant innovation”. However, consumers should be aware that some innovations might be better suited to them than others.

One of the newest trends we have seen over the past few years is a rise in gluten-free snacks, with a 933% increase in new product growth since 2004. According to Mintel, growing awareness of gluten allergies and intolerances has lead many manufacturers to either emphasize the lack of gluten in their products or to create new versions of their products without gluten. For the three million consumers who suffer from Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance, or other health disorders that are believed to be helped by a gluten-free diet, this recent surge of innovation is long overdue and is a trend to be loved. However it is important to note that gluten-free products are not good for everyone. For consumers who are healthy and do not have gluten-sensitivity, gluten-free products can be more harmful then good.

Like many other food allergies, those who suffer from gluten-intolerance cannot digest the protein in wheat. Gluten-free products therefore either use other grains that don’t contain the gluten protein or use formulations where the protein has been removed from the grain. While this enables those with gluten-sensitivity to enjoy the luxury of eating wheat-based products again, like sandwich bread, removing the gluten protein usually eliminates all nutritional value, making many gluten-free products only empty carbs. So while whole wheat bread delivers vital nutrients to those without gluten-intolerance, gluten-free bread is nothing more then a vehicle for the ham and cheese.

However, the nutritional emptiness of gluten-free products presents a large opportunity that has largely remained unmet by food manufacturers. One of the effects of Celiac Disease is that sufferers are unable absorb enough of the vitamins and minerals they desperately need, causing many celiac suffers to become malnourished. Since celiac sufferers need nutritionally fortified products more then the average person, innovation of fortified gluten-free offerings, especially fortified sandwich bread, remain one of the largest opportunities in the allergen-free product market.

Another hot spot of recent innovation has been in the energy bar market. According to Mintel, 44% of healthy snackers are interested in snacks that “boost their energy and deliver functional nutrition in a convenient, portable form”. Bars that contain easily recognizable functional ingredients, such as iron, vitamin C, magnesium, folic acid, caffeine, vitamins B12, B3, B5, and B6B and protein, are especially popular with consumers. BALANCE Bar and Kind Snacks Fruit & Nut bars are two of the best innovators in the field according to Mintel. BALANCE Bar’s 40-30-30 specialized formulas stabilize blood sugar levels by including carbohydrates, proteins, and good fats that provide long-lasting energy and satiation. Kind Snacks, on the other hand, contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help the body convert food into energy, as well as promote immunity and skin health.

There are a variety of opportunities for innovation in this market, including formulations that target specific users as well as flavor innovation. CLIF LUNA and CLIF Kid bars, for example, are specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of active women and kids and come in a variety of flavors and textures. While most energy bars are sweet, recently we have seen savory bars, such as Journey Bars that come in Parmesan and Coconut Curry flavors, become increasingly popular.

Fruit snacks have also been experiencing a lot of innovative growth lately. Due to their simple ingredients, long shelf life and wide appeal, fruit snacks have become popular snacks for children and adults looking for an inherently healthy snack. Fruit bars and dried fruit slices are easy to eat on the go and come in portion control sizes. In addition, many of these snacks can be easily fortified with vitamins such as calcium, and vitamins D and C, vitamins kids need to grow strong and maintain immune health.

In addition to flavors, salty snacks have recently experienced a wave of innovation aimed at creating healthier options. General Mills, for example, has reduced the sodium content of their Chex Mix by 36%. In addition, other companies have focused on creating substitutions for traditional salty snacks, such as Beanfields Crispylicious bean and rice chips and Food Should Taste Good sweet potato tortilla chips. Unique flavors contributed by unusual bases will appeal to trendy, young foodies who are looking to healthier options without sacrificing flavor.

All in all, there are a lot of new product innovations coming out that are worthy of a little love and excitement. While some snacks are more appropriate for some then others, it is clear that increased interest in healthy snacks has prompted innovation in a number of fields, all of which have yielded some extremely tasty results.

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Navigating the Snack Jungle

Its 3 o’clock and you are sitting at your desk working on a project for work. You are in the zone, busting out this project and all of a sudden, grrrrrrrrrowlll, your stomach rumbles and your concentration is lost. All you can think about from this point on in how hungry you are. What you need is a snack, the problem is, what should you choose?

According to Mintel, two thirds of people say they snack in between meals. In fact, many doctors recognize that snacking in-between meals can help to control hunger cravings, boost metabolism and help maintain a healthy weight. However, for many snackers, the problem is not deciding whether to snack, but what exactly to snack on, whether to avoid the temptation of the readily available, not-so-healthy snacks in favor of those that are good but not-so-available snacks.

This dilemma is often compounded by the fact that within the “healthy snack” category there is a wide range of products, from healthy to not-so-healthy munchies. For example, Mintel found that “37% of consumers consider snack/energy bars a healthy snack, yet these types of snack can range from healthy to purely indulgent”. Mintel lists Archer Farms Banana Split Indulgent Granola Bites, Price Chopper’s Market Classics Gourmet Butter Toasted Virginia Peanuts and Safeway’s Select Green Bean Crips as some of the worst offenders in the “healthy” snack category. While granola bars, peanuts and string beans are often associated as healthy foods, the second you smother them in chocolate, roast them in butter… and lets not even get started on deep-frying them, these traditionally healthy foods loose their intrinsic nutritional value. While there are several lists out there that will help you weight the merit of individual products (womensday.com and womenshealthmag.com), it is mostly up to the consumer to use their common sense when navigating the snack jungle.

The key to successful navigation is to seek out information, which only 39% of snackers actively do. According to webmd.com, healthy snacks usually comprise of enough calories to be satisfying (roughly 100), lower levels of saturated fats and sugars then similar snacks, vitamins and a healthy serving of other important nutrients such as whole grains, fiber (roughly 7g), and protein (roughly 9g) that have staying power.

However, not everyone wants a healthy snack when they get hungry. According to Mintel, 43% of snackers like to treat themselves to an occasional indulgent snack (I know I certainly do!) Not surprisingly, one of the most popular types of indulgent snacks are salty snacks, such as chips, which account for 86% of salty snack usage. Interestingly enough, Mintel found that “only a small percentage of respondents said that healthier attributes (e.g., whole-grain, organic, low cholesterol/salt, etc) are very important to them when selecting a salty snack”, meaning that “consumers are quite comfortable with their belief that salty snacks are indulgences to be enjoyed at its fullest without concern over any possible health implications”.

Conversely, the second most popular type of snack, brownies, are often packaged in small or single-sized portions. For ready-to-eat baked goods, quality and moderate sizes tend to be more important then calorie counting. However, it is important to be aware that, although they look to be individual portions, many of these sweet snacks contain several servings.

When looking for a snack to satisfy your food cravings, it is important to choose the correct snack, especially when it comes to choosing a healthy snack. While there are a plethora of options on the supermarket shelves, not all of them are healthy ones. By looking at nutritional panels, you will be better able to determine if the snack you are holding will help or hurt your ability to maintain your healthy and weight management goals.

Consumer Demographics and 2013 Snack Trends

Happy New Year! Here at Watson we are excited to start the New Year and, like you, have been looking ahead to what the year ahead will bring, especially in the area of healthy snacks. Lets discuss several of the factors that will be influencing healthy snack sales in 2013.

According to Mintel, there are several demographic factors that will influence snack sales in the upcoming year.

A better economy means better habits. Unfortunately, many believe that eating healthy means spending more. During the economic downturn of 2008, many people abstained from purchasing healthy snacks to “save a buck or two”. However, with the economy improving and disposable income increasing, many consumers feel more comfortable purchasing healthy snacks and feel more comfortable “splurging” on healthy food then they did a few years ago. According to Mintel, 38% of healthy snackers say they are purchasing healthier snack options this year. However, economic improvement is not good news for snack companies alone. During the uncertain economic times, many snack companies limited R&D spending and product launches to remain conservative. However, now that conditions are looking better, many snack companies have increased their R&D spending. This means more innovative and better quality snacks for consumers.

Women desire healthy snacks. According to Mintel, although women tend to purchase less snacks overall then their male counterparts; the snacks women do choose tend to be healthier, with 78% of their snacks purchases consisting of healthy snacks. While this makes men the greatest target segment for growth, women remain the most engaged consumers. As women tend to be more receptive to “health-related marketing efforts”, according to Mintel, there is opportunity in creating healthy snacks specifically formulated to meet women’s needs, such as calcium for bone health, antioxidants for healthy skin, and energy boosting vitamins.

Young snackers are avid snackers. While young snackers, classified as those being between the ages of 18-34, tend to eat more snacks then average, they also tend to eat less healthy snacks on average. According to Mintel, snackers in this age group are “less likely to make an intentional effort to eat healthfully”. However this segment is poised to grow, with 23% of snackers in this segment saying they plan to purchase more snacks in the upcoming year. To cater to these consumers, snack companies should focus on product attributes other then health such as energy boosting attributes that would appeal to this fast-paced segment.

Sell to your elders. Another growing segment are the more distinguished consumers, those who are 55+. According to Mintel, this age group represents the fastest growing and largest population segment, with the 55-64 age group expected to grow 31% and the 65-74 group expected to grow by 48% by 2016. Healthy snacks with “low in” qualities, such as snacks that are low in sugar and cholesterol, and are formulated with ingredients like glucosamine, calcium and vitamin E that promote joint, bone, and heart health, will greatly appeal to this group as they look to maintain their active lifestyles.

Family feud: healthy vs. tasty. As mentioned in earlier posts, while children are avid snackers, they are also some of the pickiest. According to Mintel, the percentage of healthy snacks consumed in a household with kids is lower then households without – 75.3% compared to 79.2%. However, the current focus on childhood obesity has encouraged parents to choose healthier options for their tots. According to a Fleishman-Hillard and Motherhood.com survey, 78% of mothers say they are reading more food labels to look for ingredients they want to avoid, such as high fructose corn syrup, high-levels of sugar, artificial dyes and gluten. The challenge for snack companies is to create healthy snacks that come in kid-friendly portions and combine kid-friendly flavors with parent-friendly nutrition. Portability is another important aspect when developing snacks for this segment as the majority of snacks are consumed on the go.

In addition to the factors listed by Mintel, there are several taste and flavor trends that will be hot in 2013. According to Datamonitor’s 2013 consumer trend watch, high impact flavors, such as balsamic vinegar and caramelized onion, will be extremely popular when it comes to chips and dips. For bakery snacks, different textures will make the consumption experience more interesting while sugar becoming more acceptable. According to a recent IFIC survey, 61% of consumers believe that sugar does not need to be eliminated from their diet in order to loose weight. This shows that many consumers are willing to accept small amounts of sugar in their snacks. Protein also remains an important factor for snacks, with consumers becoming more focused in the protein contribution of yogurt in a variety of snacks, such as yogurt covered granola bars and dairy-based chips.

All-in-all, there are a lot of things that snack companies should be aware of when formulating snacks this upcoming year, from custom formulations and marketing campaigns to unique flavors and ingredients to reach their target markets. I don’t know about you, but yogurt covered granola bars and caramelized onion flavored chips sound delicious to me!