When it comes to snacking, consumers want it all. They want indulgent salty snacks, but they want them to be healthier as well. Threading the salty-but-healthy snack combination is a major key in appealing to consumers over the next few years, according market research publisher Packaged Facts in the brand new report Salty Snacks in the U.S., 4th Edition.

To date, marketers have been quick to develop new products and modify the ingredients of existing products to keep salty snacks relevant even in the discussion of healthier-for-you snacks. This quick uptake of an important trend, coupled with the growing desire of consumers to eat on the run and the enduring need of snackers to indulge themselves, all combine to create a strong driver for salty snack sales between now and 2020, notes David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts. While the snackification of other products such as yogurt, cheese, and proteins (meat snacks) are pulling consumers away from salty snacks, there remains sufficient interest from consumers in the snacking staples—such as potato chips and tortilla chips that are found in three-quarters of homes—that sales of salty snacks will grow moderately well over the next five years despite the increased pressure from these competing snacks.

Packaged Facts’ data reveals that growth in sales of salty snacks in the U.S. has been steady recently. Sales increased 3.5% to reach $22 billion in 2015. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for salty snack sales in the U.S. between 2010 and 2015 was 3.7%. The aforementioned potato chips continue to be the top salty snack seller in the U.S., with the category taking in $7.5 billion in 2015. The next strongest category is tortilla and tostada chips, which garnered $5.2 billion in sales. The salty-but-healthy dichotomy also has spurred growth in the ready-to-eat popcorn segment, which just happens to satisfy consumer desire for convenient snacking as well. Looking ahead, Packaged Facts forecasts the salty snack market’s CAGR between 2015-2020 will be 4%.

As part of their ongoing and future growth strategies, marketers can develop new products to appeal to salty snackers in a number of ways. Topping the list is broadening flavor profiles by tapping into flavors traditionally found in other foods and other regions of the world and marrying them to existing salty snack formats such as potato chips or pretzels. Of course, the traditional flavor pairing of sweet and salty continues to appeal to consumers as well, particularly as the number of unique flavors in snacks grows and snackers look to satisfy any nostalgic snack cravings. New snack shapes are also a growing way for marketers to appeal to consumers, with new technologies allowing for innovation in the way the snacks are both shaped and cooked.

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