A noteworthy event for snack formulators in 2003 may have had more impact had it occurred several years ago. The FDA lifted its health warning on Procter & Gamble's (Cincinnati) zero-calorie fat replacer, olestra. The warning had been required of products containing the ingredient since its approval in 1996. Derived from plant-based materials, olestra passes through the body undigested, but the FDA sought to warn consumers that the ingredient might cause cramps and diarrhea.

Since implementing the warning, the agency received 20,000 reports of gastrointestinal complaints from olestra consumers but, this year, concluded that olestra's effects were mild and rare. FDA based the decision on a study that monitored 3,000 consumers over a six-week period after eating snacks containing olestra or snacks that the consumer believed contained the ingredient but, in fact, did not. Negligible differences were found.

Look for the Label

to tout its most-healthful products. The Smart Snack ribbon label debuted on Baked! Lay's Potato Crisps, highlighting some of the product's nutrition information on the front of the package. It informs consumers that the product had 0g of trans fats, no cholesterol and 1.5g of fat per serving.

Kenneth Cooper, M.D., an expert on health, nutrition and exercise, created the nutritional guidelines that Frito-Lay products must meet to be eligible for the Smart Snack ribbon label. Among them are 150 or fewer calories; less than 35% of calories from fat (usually 5g or less), less than 7% of calories from saturated fat (usually 1g or less), 0g of trans fats and 240mg of sodium or less per 1oz.-serving. The new label follows Frito-Lay's elimination of partially hydrogenated cooking oils from its Doritos, Tostitos and Cheetos brands. These, along with Lay's and Ruffles potato chips, were produced with trans fat-free oils.

Kellogg's (Battle Creek, Mich.) made a similar move on some of its products. A change in formula for the Keebler cookies reduced the products' fat content.

Furthering the healthful cause in the snacks aisle, Smart Balance from GFA Brands (Cresskill, N.J.) took its cholesterol-lowering, heart-healthful products into a new realm. Smart Balance Popcorn has no hydrogenated oil or trans fatty acids and contains a patented oil blend that promises to improve cholesterol. It can be found in two varieties—Movie Palace Extra Butter and Light Butter.

Of course, no discussion of healthful new products in 2003 would be complete without mentioning low-carbohydrate offerings. Hain-Celestial Group's (Uniondale, N.Y.) Carb Fit line was co-branded with some of the company's more established brands, such as Hain Pure, DeBoles and Health Valley, none of which contain trans fats or hydrogenated oils. The Carb Fit Hain Pure line features Snax Twirls and Snax Soy Nuts. The former is a crispy soy snack in two flavors—nacho and ranch, each containing 5g of net carbs per serving. The latter has 6g of net carbs per serving of its two flavors—salted and red hot. Hain-Celestial expects to offer new varieties in 2004.

A pair of nutrition bars has gone the low-carb route, as well. CarboLite Foods (Evansville, Ind.) has added cereal bars boasting no sugar and only 3g of net effective carbs per serving. Similarly, NBTY (Bohemia, N.Y.) launched CarbWise Low-Carb Nutrition Bars in July, followed shortly thereafter by a “super-premium,” yet low-carbohydrate ice cream offered in conjunction with Cool Brands (Toronto).

Accentuate the Positive

Rather than touting the lack of carbohydrates, some snack bar makers took a more positive approach to lure the same audience, by highlighting the high-protein content of their offerings. Nature's Plus (Melville, N.Y.) supports low-carb, high-protein dieters with KetoSlim High Protein Bars in chocolate raspberry crisp or luscious lemon crisp flavors, while Carb Minders from American Health (Holbrook, N.Y.) claims to add crispiness to the category with its High Protein Bars—in such varieties as crispy raspberry, crispy chocolate s'mores, crispy chocolate peanut and crispy lemon yogurt.

Demonstrating the circle of life in the low-carb area, GeniSoy (Fairfield, Calif.) entered other snack arenas this year. Better known for its line of Soy Protein Nutrition Bars, the company added Low Carb Tortilla Chips, with fiesta salsa, nacho cheese, zesty habanero and lightly salted offerings.

Given the growth and expectations for tortilla sales, GeniSoy's launch made perfect sense. The Tortilla Industry Association (Eagan, Minn.) predicts sales of tortillas will hit $6.1 billion in 2004, and the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (Madison, Wis.) said sales already surpass the combined sales total of bagels, pita breads and English muffins. Indeed, for consumers preferring tortillas as wraps, Tumaro's (Los Angeles) extended its Lowfat Tortilla Wraps in such flavorful varieties as pesto & roasted garlic, jalapeño & cilantro, and southwestern chipotle chili & peppers.

Further utilizing flavors popular among the Hispanic community, Flowers Bakeries (Thomasville, Ga.) went directly after that demographic with Tesoritos snack cakes. The 13-SKU line offers Sorpresas, chocolate-covered vanilla cakes with strawberry and crème filling; Conchas, soft yeast rolls with a sugary topping; Donas, sugared donuts; Mantecadas, mini vanilla muffins; Panque, pound cake; Panquesitos, mini pound cakes; Panque con Nues, pecan pound cake slices; Esponjitas, crème-filled sponge cake; Pastelitos con Crema, crème-filled chocolate cupcakes; and Roles de Canela con Pasa, cinnamon rolls with raisins.

Similarly, a brand likely familiar to former residents of Mexico, Bimbo Snacks USA (Houston) targets the Hispanic population in the U.S. with Limonuts, lemon- and salt-flavored peanuts. The company also debuted a wheat snack, Barcel Cronchis Chile & Limon Spicy wheat snacks. In fact, Bimbo's Barcel brand enjoyed quite a few launches this year, with Churritos Thin N' Crispy Corn Snack Stix, Chipotles Smoky Chipotle N' Cheese Corn Crisps, Taquis Rolled Tortilla Minis, and Chicharrones Chili & Limon Snack Chips offerings joining the line.

Website Resources

"Snacking: The Fourth Meal” from Prepared Foods

“Snacks: A Healthy Necessity in a Diabetic Diet”

“FDA Changes Labeling Requirement for Olestra”

To see previous New Product Annual issues, click on the Editorial Archives on the lefthand side of the home page. See March 2003, April 2002 and April 2001.

Going Global

In the U.K., a retailer has taken potato snacks into the premium realm. As new, varied flavors in savory snacks continued to enter the mainstream and cater to a range of consumer tastes, Tesco added Chargrilled Steak & Marsala Wine to its Temptations potato snack line. In other interesting potato snacks debuts around the world, flavor combinations ran the gamut and included offerings such as lemongrass & coconut; rosemary & olive oil; and tomato, basil & mascarpone. Those that were hand-cooked had added appeal, and some of the ingredients used, such as Red Duke of York potatoes, Camembert cheese and balsamic vinegar, were more upscale.

Varied flavors were not confined to one snack category, however. In 2003, for instance, companies spiced up their nut offerings. In Mexico, Barcel Peanuts from Bimbo's Barcel Mexico debuted in salt-lime, chili-lime and lime flavors, while chili also was available in Botanas Payetan's Peanuts.

In the Philippines, Liwayway Marketing Corporation added wasabi-flavored ridged potato crisps, while Frito-Lay brought a Primavera Pizza offering to its Lay's chips in Poland. In the Netherlands, Duyvis incorporated similar Italian flavors into its Pastrelli's crisps in assorted pasta shapes and such flavors as Siciliana.

Elsewhere, Frito-Lay added unique, somewhat localized flavors to its offerings. In Asia, for instance, crispy rice and seaweed were among the Lay's brand additions while, in China, its products added a citrus flair. Corn chips with lemon had been seen in the past, but the addition of lemon to potato snacks proved a novel concept.

To add an element of healthfulness to the flavoring trend, Productos Alimentarios El Supreme Nutrisa Fibra-huates added a wheat bran coating to their chili-lime flavored nuts in Mexico. Similarly, in China, Cadina's Blueberry Potato Sticks from Lianhua Foods provided not only the fruit touted for its antioxidant health benefits, but also a “spicy flavor,” according to the ingredients legend.

In the U.K., snacks went beyond simple potato or corn offerings. Butt Foods' Bredz line added bread dough in a snacking format, in such flavors as Tandoori, and Sainsbury's went a similar route with its crisp baked naan stick snacks in Tikka (medium hot) and Korma (mild) varieties.

Finally, in what may have been the year's most unique introduction, Koikeya added Octopus Dumpling potato chips. These promised the flavor of sweet and hot octopus puddings with Worcester sauce and mayonnaise.