- As more American consumers replace meals with snacking, sales of salty chips, pretzels and popcorns have grown. In its new report, “Salty Snacks: U.S. Market Trends and Opportunities,” Packaged Facts estimates retail dollar sales of the U.S. salty snacks industry at $24 billion in 2017, with a compound annual growth rate of almost 4% between 2012 and 2017. The report suggests the U.S. salty snacks market will surpass $29 billion in 2022.
- Even as millennials and Gen Z eaters crave salty snacks, they also look for healthy options, as well as new taste and flavor combinations. Packaged Facts predicts better-for-you snacks will continue to use alternative (non-potato) ingredients and include different proteins, grains, vegetables and superfoods. Product developers also will evolve technology to continue developing different shapes and textures.
- All salty snacks are not created equally, however. Within the salty snack segment, pretzels have gone stale, with retail sales dipping nearly 1% to $1.25 billion in 2017, compared with $1.29 billion in 2015, Food Navigator USA cites. “For an increasing number of consumers, there has been a deliberate and conscientious shift away from processed foods loaded with added or excess sodium,” the report states. “Well over half of all consumers are making comparisons based on sodium content when making food purchasing decisions."
There can be little doubt that America’s eating habits are changing. Busy people are turning to snacks rather than three full meals a day, and food companies are trying to meet evolving demands as they reach for a portion of the $89 billion snacking category. With Datassential estimating that consumers eat about four to five snack foods a day, it's no wonder that Big Food is aiming to play a bigger role in this popular trend.
But even as they eat smaller amounts of food throughout the day, U.S. consumers still want to put better-for-you foods into their bodies. Yogurt, nuts and dried fruits are competing with traditional chips and cheese puffs when it comes to grabbing a quick on-the-go snack. SNAC International's David Walsh, a vice president of membership and communications, noted that IRI data found 58% of consumers want snacks that contain vitamins and minerals, and 75% of shoppers want ones that are guaranteed fresh.
Large food manufacturers such as Campbell Soup, Hershey, Kellogg and Conagra Brands, among others, are working to innovate internally or turn to acquisitions to be part of the changing attitudes towards snacking. Last year, Campbells Soup acquired Snyder’s-Lance, the manufacturer of popular snack brands such as Pop Secret, Kettle, Cape Cod and Emerald in a deal that closed in March.
Food companies would do well to look closely at which snacks consumers are putting into their carts. U.S. consumers search for healthier snacks. Packaged Facts found ready-to-eat popcorn and caramel corn grew the fastest of the largest categories at 18.5% from $1.1 billion in retail sales in 2015 to $1.6 billion in 2017, which could be because consumers see popcorn as both indulgent and a more healthful snack option. The growth spurt helped the category claim 8.7% of retail sales of salty snacks in the U.S., according to the report.
Consumers are also turning to baked potato chips and chips made from alternative ingredients. Smart food manufacturers are shunning high fructose syrup and trans fats as well as cutting back on sodium and fat to keep consumers coming back. Clever food companies also are adding new chip flavors to combing salty tastes with new flavors such as creamy garlic Caesar, milk chocolate, crushed red pepper, ketchup, wasabi ginger, biscuits and gravy, cinnamon with sugar and even chicken and waffles.
As the salty snack industry continues to evolve, companies that find creative ways to balance flavor and health attributes are likely to emerge the winners.