- Market research firm Mintel recently reported that growth in the frozen snacks space is slowing down and salty snacks are to blame, according to Bakery and Snacks. The report found that salty meat, popcorn and cheese snacks are melting down the popularity of frozen items.
- Although the frozen snacks category has grown in recent years, Mintel predicts that annual growth in the frozen snack category will slow from 2019 to 2022 and rest between 0.6% to 0.9%. On the other hand, salty snacks are expected to catapult to 28% growth between 2017 and 2022.
- "The nearly $12 billion salty snacks market continues (to) turn in a strong performance driven by the increasing prevalence of snacking," said the report. Private label and innovative snacks are also helping drive this growth, according to the report.
There is no question that snacking as a category is on the rise. Whether it be sweet, salty, frozen or fresh, companies in the food manufacturing space are all reaching for a portion of the $89 billion snacking category that is slowly replacing Americans’ three square meals a day.
But recent reports have shown that the definition of snacks is changing, as consumers look to better-for-you options to snack on. When the concept began, snacks were originally defined by salty bites — like pretzels and popcorn — and were catalyzed by the potato chip in 1853. If Mintel’s predictions prove to be correct, it seems that 165 years later, American taste buds remain loyal to salt.
Even as U.S. consumers are drawn to salty favorites, they are still angling toward consuming larger quantities of better-for-you foods. Savory alternatives like yogurt, nuts and dried fruits are competing with traditional chips and cheese puffs when it comes to grabbing a quick on-the-go snack. Similarly, vegetable-based chips have also boomed in the snack segment, with food companies positioning themselves to benefit from the trend. General Mills' VC arm, 301 INC, invested twice in Rhythm Superfoods, which has found success through its kale, beet and broccoli chips. PepsiCo's Frito-Lay division introduced its Off the Eaten Path line of rice, black bean and chickpea chips.
Although varied, there is one thing that all of these options share: portability. Consumers increasingly have limited time to sit down and eat full meals as life gets busier so people have found themselves wanting more on-the-go products. These saltier snacks — which tend to be convenient — are starting to win out over their frozen counterparts. Frozen snacks tend to be suited for at-home snacking and generally have less innovative and free-from options. The report noted that companies making frozen snacks should consider eliminating "red flag" ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup, which could dissuade many consumers from purchasing a product.
Although the frozen snacks category had been struggling for years, it has recently seen a resurgence of interest. Even though this report found that demand could be dying out, there is still another chance for frozen snacks to bounce back. According to the Mintel report, 85% of parents acknowledge that their children eat frozen snacks. But some of these snacks may be repurposed frozen appetizers, which are currently experiencing growth and driving frozen food's first volume expansion in five years. This is powered by convenience, but it is also thanks to innovation and an effort to stay on trend that manufacturers have been able to shed the image of stodgy nutrient-less meals.
Nevertheless, most frozen snacks and meals need to be "prepared" with quick cooking before they can be consumed, while salty snacks require no time at all. This category will likely continue to struggle when pitted against the grab-and-go portability of salty snacks.