The Joy of Snacks
Introductions of baked and puffed snacks experienced a surge, largely due to their healthful connotations. The lack of fat and/or calories enticed weight-conscious consumers, particularly those not willing to sacrifice taste. The Crispy Delites line from Healthy Delite, for example, married the best of two health-positive worlds—being baked and being vegetable chips. The 100% Natural Veggie Chips line was made with 100% real vegetables, with one 1.07oz bag providing an equivalent to one pound of vegetables. The low-fat product could be found in seven flavors: carrot, Asian cucumber, celery, red onion, taro, pumpkin and sweet potato. In addition, Frito-Lay has been exploring a move into more-healthful territory, as its chief executive noted the company is looking at launching chips made with vegetables and fruit, as well as extending its popular multigrain SunChips snacks line, in early 2006.
A more-traditional baked potato chip offering, however, came from Classic Foods. Its Baked Classics Potato Crisps were 95% fat-free, and Guiltless Gourmet's Baked Potato Crisps took the benefit a step further by promising to be a good source of iron and protein, while also being free of trans fat.
Trans-formationsWith the coming rule requiring labeling of trans fat content, snack manufacturers were quick to reformulate their offerings to avoid that particular label, and they were equally quick to flag the “low trans fat” claim on-package. Potato Poppers from Lantev were a low-fat alternative to potato chips and free of cholesterol and trans fat, as was a range of tortilla chips from Firefighter Brands. Similarly, Jays Crispy Ridged line of potato chips expanded to include trans fat-free varieties of roasted garlic and Parmesan, jalapeño and cheddar, and garden herb ranch.
Further benefiting certain popcorn manufacturers, the revised dietary guideline recommendations called for increasing whole-grain consumption. ConAgra Foods announced its most popular microwaveable popcorn brands, Orville Redenbacher's and ACT II, will be made with 100% whole grain (starting in early 2006) and also will be free of trans fat. According to ConAgra, an analysis of the USDA's dietary intake determined that if consumers ate popcorn regularly, they could more than triple their whole-grain intake and, at the same time, increase their fiber intake by 20%.
A variety of cheese-flavored popcorn options were available in the U.S., where Weaver Popcorn's Pop Weaver brand boasted a White Cheddar flavor, and General Mills' Pop-Secret 1-Step Premium Popcorn promised to “pop up cheesy.” This product differed from other flavored popcorn varieties in the sense that past introductions required two steps—the cooking of the popcorn and the addition of the flavor (typically a separate pack of flavored powder). With Pop-Secret 1-Step Premium Popcorn, the consumer needed only a microwave. The product was available in white cheddar and cheddar flavor varieties.
Taking ControlIn 2004, Kraft Foods launched a range of 100 Calorie Packs of such snacks as Wheat Thins, Cheese Nips, Oreos and Chips Ahoy! cookies. While Kraft's efforts did involve a reformulation of a number of these into “thin crisps,” the notions of portion and calorie control helped inspire competitors.
Procter & Gamble, for instance, launched Pringles 100 Calorie Packs in 2005. The moniker, identical to the Kraft line, was a bit of a surprise, but it did communicate nutritional content quickly and easily to the consumer. Each pack had 6g of fat and was free of cholesterol and trans fat. While, at first glance, this would appear simply a re-packaging and re-branding of the single-serve Pringles crisps already retailing in six-packs with an oversleeve, this product was branded differently and came in a multi-pack box.
Kellogg also had the portion-control idea with Gripz Cheez-It Baked Snack Crackers. Each “Rip 'n Tip” package, ideal for consuming on-the-go, had 130 calories, 6g of fat (1g saturated) and 16g of carbohydrates. Kellogg also took the Gripz concept into the cookie aisle with Keebler Chips Deluxe Gripz Mighty Tiny chocolate chip cookies, which actually had fewer calories (120) and fat (5g) than the Cheez-It variety, though more saturated fat (1.5g).
The single-serve concept also extended into other snacking segments, as Kraft introduced Planters Go-Nuts Mixed Nuts, a container of six 1.5oz packs of peanuts, almonds, pistachios, pecans and hazelnuts. Each 42g serving contained 260 calories, 23g of total fat (2.5g saturated), 0g of trans fat, 4g of fiber, and 80mg of sodium. An on-pack note informed consumers that each pack was “conveniently packed in an amount to help your heart.”
FortifiedIntroductions in the nuts segment focused on health and wellness benefits, be it through cholesterol, fat and sodium content or through lines fortified with vitamins and minerals. Paramount's Sunkist Almond Munchies was a line of heart-healthy snack nuts low in saturated fat and high in protein. High in vitamin E, they included such varieties as honey dipped, In the Raw, Nudies, Roastie Toasties, Buttered Up, and Hot and Sassy. Meanwhile, Kraft added more pistachios to Planters NUT-trition Heart Healthy Nut Mix, while reducing the sodium level by 50% (compared to Planters' regular mixed nuts). Low-sodium nut introductions have increased of late, but remain a small sub-segment. The interesting facet of such products is the fact that they cater to consumers interested in healthier varieties, since salt is added to nuts primarily for flavor.
In addition, manufacturers are using bolder and more interesting flavors to attract consumers to the nut sector. As mentioned previously, salt long has been a staple among nut flavorings, but more-diverse flavor extensions could entice consumers concerned about health as well as taste. Nunes Farms, for example, added extra allure to almonds by introducing country herb, tangy tomato sauce, and Maui onion varieties in its California Crunchies line. Blue Diamond Growers' Bold Almonds featured such flavors as Lime 'n Chili, Jalapeño Smokehouse, Wasabi and Soy Sauce, and Maui Onion and Garlic.
Hampton Farms incorporated chili lemon and barbecue into separate varieties of its Gourmet Roast Peanuts. Although promoted based on its three-net-carb content, the product may have been more notable for its resealable, reusable tub.
The Outer LimitsThe resealable package emerged in quite a few snack offerings, with a number of them in the meat snacks segment. Under the T.G.I. Friday's label, Poore Brothers added Tender Chicken Strips Snacks in a barbecue-flavored chicken variety in the resealable package, the same as used for the same label's Tender Beef Steak Strip Snacks, which could be found in original steak and mesquite-smoked steak flavors. Similar packaging surrounded Snacker Stackers, thick-cut meat snacks in pepperoni and beef flavors from Old Wisconsin Food, and SunRidge Farms utilized the zip-top bag for its repackaged line of nuts and seeds, as well as in its dried fruits.
The convenience and freshness of the resealable package may have benefited SunRidge's line, but one of the big trends in snacks overall also penetrated the fruit snack sector. Portion control was a key element in Kellogg's Right Bites. These fat-free fruit snacks were available in 100-calorie pouches and promised to be an “excellent source of vitamin C.” Meanwhile, in time for Halloween trick-or-treating, Promotion in Motion Companies Inc. debuted Welch's Fruit Snacks and Sun-Maid Milk Chocolate Raisins fun-size packs, 0.5oz servings said to be “easy to enjoy, without worries of overindulging.” Further boosting parents' confidence in the products, the Welch's Fruit Snacks contain 100% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, 25% of vitamins A and E, while also being fat-free. Sun-Maid Milk Chocolate Raisins claim to be “a great source” of iron, calcium and protein.
Following a number of introductions where chocolate confectionery brands moved into the sweet biscuit/cookie category, the opposite occurred with Kraft's Nabisco Oreo Chocolate Candy Bar—a cookie expanding into chocolate confectionery. This was not the first of its kind, as both Mrs. Fields and Kraft's own Nestle Toll House released a cookie-candy bar concept earlier in the year.
In addition to its packaging innovation, Masterfoods' global parent company, Mars Inc., expanded its nutrition efforts. The company launched a new business unit, Mars Nutrition for Health & Well-Being, to develop and launch new foods, snacks, beverages and lifestyle support to serve the nutritional and well-being needs of consumers. As Michael Mars, president of Mars Nutrition for Health & Well-Being, explained, “Our unit's mission is to be a trusted partner in healthy lifestyles, enabling consumers to look, perform and feel their best everyday. We will bring great taste to products designed to provide real health benefits supported by sound nutrition science.”
Mars released research touting the disease-fighting properties of cocoa. The central ingredient in most of Mars' products apparently was found to contain properties to treat diabetes, strokes and vascular disease. The company hopes to introduce medications based on the flavonols found in cocoa.
Much of the information in this article was derived from Mintel International's Global New Products Database, www.gnpd.com, 312-932-0400.
Sidebar: Going GlobalCandy often seems like a treat for children, but a release in Germany this year was more grownup-oriented. MeierKurt launched the first tobacco-flavored confection, named (appropriately enough) Tobacco Flavoured Candies. The two flavors—classic and sweet—were free of nicotine and sugar, but did feature added vitamin C.
Considering the popularity of yogurt, it was little shock to see it in other segments. In Australia, for example, the Nestlé Ski yogurt brand extended into a novel snack format. Nestlé Ski Smoothie Balls were bite-sized crispy morsels with a malt cereal center. Coated in a light milky layer, the treat is made with fruit and available in Raspberry Rush and Tropical Tango flavors. Smoothie Poles, meanwhile, were non-sticky fruity tubes filled with a milky center and in the same two flavors, as well as Very Berry.
Dairy's influence in the snack segment was felt further with the launch of Milky Babies. The U.K. treat was made with 10% sweetened condensed milk and 3% dried skim milk. Cadbury-owned Trebor Bassett also launched Fruity Babies at the same time; these were fruit-flavored jelly sweets with a 10% fruit juice content.
Fruit-flavored snacks, of course, are not exactly new, but the year did see some unique interpretations. T2 International's Twin Trees brand added 100% natural coconut chips in Thailand, which also saw the introduction of Chiantavee's Durio natural crunchy pineapple, a 30g packet of baked Thai pineapple.
In more-savory snacks, flavors expanded beyond the broadly interpreted Italian and Mexican genres. Germany, for instance, was the launch pad for Crunchips enchilada potato snack from the Bahlsen brand of Lorenz Bahlsen Snack-World. The snacks were said to have a tomato-and-kidney bean flavor with a chili kick.