Consumers Go Nuts for Healthy Snacks

Given that 20 percent of all meal occasions are snacks, accounting for 25 percent of all calories consumed, it’s no surprise that more healthful snacking will be a major focus area for many food companies and food service operators this year.  Among other weight management trends causing Americans to rethink eating habits, there is growing recognition of the nutritional benefits of nuts

Market research indicates that this nutritional trend will continue to propel consumers’ use of nuts and other natural foods as leading snack products. Food producers and retailers are responding by offering a greater range of tasty and convenient products, including nut and fruit bars and trail mix.


Nutritional Benefits of Nuts Drives Sales

Our data at Packaged Facts indicates that almonds in particular are finding wide application in healthier snacks; this development is in part associated with research findings that the actual caloric content of whole almonds is 20 percent less than the Nutrition Facts Panel indicates. (The Nutrition Facts Panel is the boxed wording located on most packaged foods in which producers publish information about calories, sodium, etc., of the food content within.)

Consumers can expect to see nut snacks with nutritional benefits based on inherent nutritional composition, along with added nutrients or components such as caffeine for an energy boost; some of the new offerings expected to enter the market this year also feature bolder, adult-oriented flavors. Retailers are responding to consumer demand for healthy food and wellness-oriented development in snacks: portion-controlled, single-serve snacks of all types. 

Another healthy snack-food item that is truly exploding is ready-to-eat (RTE) air popped popcorn.  Contributing to popcorn’s appeal in 2013 is the recent discovery that it is a better source of antioxidants than fruits or vegetables.  The popularity of air-popped, whole grain popcorn is likely to spur interest in and development of other popped whole grains, such as sorghum.  

All things fruit and all things vegetable will be fair game for snacking in 2013. Vegetables and fruits are being dehydrated and freeze dried from their fresh forms to create shelf-stable munchable chips.  Research indicates that the vegetable chips showing the greatest appeal will be those based on healthy natural ingredients, including beans and other legumes, kale, sweet potato, and seaweed.


More Consumers Go Nuts for Fruit, Too

 Another shelf-stable format for fruit will continue to be various forms of squeezable fruit, with some items some developed to appeal to kids, others targeted toward adults.

Retailers are also offering more varieties of pre-cut fresh fruit and vegetables, especially those in single serve and portion-controlled packages. Research indicates that growing numbers of consumers crave single-serve, easy to use healthy snacks contained in packaging that also includes seasoning (often in separate packaging) for added flavor.

This emerging category is becoming increasingly popular, and it also factors in mini-sized vegetables just right for snacking, including: cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, and carrots.

Along these lines, you can safely anticipate that there will be more combination snacks sold from the produce department in 2013, consisting of leafy or fruity “mash-ups” of precut fruits and vegetables that have high protein, including cheese, yogurt, nuts and nut butters. 

And finally, there is another healthy snack contender waiting in the wings:

Our data analysis of the food and beverage market shows that cheese is very likely to become a more important snacking option in this year.

This is partly due to recent findings that kids who snack on cheese and fresh vegetables eat fewer calories, and thus require less food to feel full than kids who eat regular potato chips.  Also driving the growth of snack-able cheese in 2013 are introductions of more varieties of string cheese. Producers and marketers are targeting adults with bolder, more sophisticated flavors, and also gearing more cheese products toward kids using visual appeal such as multiple colors and fun shapes.

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