By Lorrie Baumann
Hungry Americans are snacking more than ever before, but for many, the between-meal food is a guilt-ridden, sometimes furtive attempt to stave off hunger and boost energy long enough to get them through the day to their next meals. Snack food manufacturers are making a wealth of products to meet precisely these needs.
These are trends found by market research firm Canadean, which conducts three consumer surveys annually of more than 50,000 consumers in 47 countries. The research was presented in Chicago by Canadean Innovation Insights Director Tom Vierhile at this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo in May. The surveys found that snacking behavior is nearly universal in the U.S., with 96 percent of Americans saying that they snack at least occasionally. Among people between the ages of 18 and 44, almost everyone is snacking between main meals, with 97 percent of 18-24-year-olds, 98 percent of those aged 25 to 34 and 97 percent of those between 35 and 44 saying that they snack. Snacking tends to skew towards young and male consumers, with young and middle-aged men much more likely to snack regularly than any other group, according to the surveys.
Most of this snacking takes place after lunch, with 55 percent of U.S. consumers saying that they snack between lunch and dinner and 39 percent saying that they snack between dinner and bedtime, and most of it happens at home. While hunger is the obvious motivation for snacking, treating or rewarding oneself, boosting energy and relieving boredom are also top drivers.
This snacking isn’t necessarily guilt-free; younger consumers in particular, those between 25 and 34, say that they’re judgy about people who eat junk foods. A fair number of Americans are getting around that by eating snacks that contain “a healthy ingredient.” About a third of all Americans and more than half of 25-34-year-olds say that they feel less guilty about consuming unhealthy foods or drinks if they contain a healthy ingredient.
The Sweets & Snacks Expo exhibit hall provided a wealth of evidence that Vierhile knew what he was talking about and that many snack food manufacturers had already figured most of it out for themselves. The market is seeing a proliferation of snack foods that offer protein rather than added sugar for that between-meal energy boost, and many of them are offering front-of-the-package claims of some kind of nutritional benefit, even if it’s just an offset for a product that might otherwise be considered an indulgent treat rather than a component of a nutrition plan.
Stoneridge Orchards‘ line of all-natural dried fruits is Non-GMO Project Verified, gluten-free, free of preservatives and sulfites and contain no hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors or colors. They’re high in Vitamin C and free of common allergens. The fruit is grown in family-owned orchards in central Washington by third-generation family farmers. Organic Cranberries enrobed in dark chocolate join an organic product line that now includes four items, together with Organic Blueberries, Organic Montmorency Cherries and Organic Mixed Berries. The 4-ounce package retails for $4.99 to $5.99.
Country Prime Meats’ Country Bites Naturals are meat snacks available in four flavors, including Hamalyan Inspired, flavored with tandoori spice, and Tuscan Inspired, flavored with tomato and pepper, cooked, smoked and dried turkey sausages. They’re gluten free and lactose free, with no added nitrites and no lactose. Turkey for the snacks was raised without antibiotics, and the snacks are bite-sized to aid in portion control. The 4.4-ounce bag retails for $7.99.
Simply Smart and Smart Kids snack bars are targeted directly at the nutrition-conscious, with Smart Kids bars formulated to meet U.S. Department of Agriculture requirements for school lunch programs. Simply Smart is the adult version, targeted at the consumer aged 16 and older who wants a healthy snack bar. Simply Smart bars contain no added refined sugar and contain 190 to 200 calories and 10 grams of protein per bar. “Everything we do is all-natural, Non-GMO Project Verified and certified gluten free,” said Chief Operating Officer Rob Zelickman. Simply Smart bars are packaged for individual sale at retail and sell for $1.99 each. The Smart Kids bars sell for $1.30.
AWAKE Energy Granola Bars offer caffeine along with B vitamins and some added sugar for that late afternoon energy boost. Each bar contains as much caffeine as half a cup of coffee plus B vitamins. Each bar contains 5 grams of protein and 150 calories or less. They come in four flavors: Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate Caramel, Coconut Apricot and Cinnamon Bun. They contain no artificial flavors or colors and are gluten free.
Peeled Snacks are designed to appeal to the consumer who looks for a clean ingredient deck with no added sugar. Peas Please are the newest item in the product line, which also includes Gently Dried Fruit and Apple Clusters. Made with 70 percent peas, brown rice, sunflower oil and salt, these crunchy snacks are all organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, and gluten free. They come in four flavors, with White Cheddar the newest. Other flavors are Sea Salt, Garden Herb and Southwest Spice. Peas Please are made by a certified B Corporation started in 2005. A 3.3-ounce bag that provides 3-1/2 servings of vegetables per bag sells for $2.99.
Snack pastries from Bakerly are for those who start their snacking with breakfast. Four product lines of bakery products include authentic French crepes filled with strawberry or chocolate, mini brioche, and a chocolate croissant. They’re made with real eggs and real butter, individually wrapped and delivered frozen to stores for a 30-day shelf life after thawing. “We are the only brioche to go available in the market,” said Damien Callery, the company’s Vice President of Sales. The products are made in France with clean recipes and no genetically modified ingredients. The newest in the line is a chocolate filled petit cake – something like a standard American-style snack cake but without all the artificial ingredients, Callery said. “We want America to go back to an American tradition, but with clean ingredients and better quality,” he added.
The bakerly petit cakes contain no preservatives, no high fructose corn syrup and no palm oil. They’re non-GMO. They come in three flavors: chocolate, apricot and strawberry, with all-natural fruit fillings. A package of five individually-wrapped cakes has a three-month shelf life and retails for $3.49.