Snack innovation remains strong as consumers replace main meals with snacks. In fact, when Innova Market Insights conducted an eating behaviors survey last year, an estimated 60% of Americans say they snack twice or more a day and only just under 3% of Americans say they never snack.

This snack attack activity drove new product launches in meat snacks, snack mixes, and fruit-based snacks. Each enjoyed double-digit growth rates with meat snacks at the top of the heap, expanding at a 20.6% CAGR from 2014 to 2018.


Meats & Mixes

Biltong emerged in meat snacks during 2019. Native to South Africa, biltong is beef jerky thicker than “regular” beef jerky and air dried with no heat. Stryve Minis Beef Biltong Sticks and Made by True Biltong were examples.

Meat-based jerky also went upscale in 2019. Greg Norman Signature Wagyu Teriyaki Beef Jerky was the first 100% Australian Wagyu beef jerky in the U.S. Elsewhere, it was pork belly that featured in Kroger’s Private Selection Original BBQ Recipe Pork Belly Bites.

Jerky came in new formats in 2019 including some plant-based versions. Wilde Brand Chicken Chips offered “thin and crispy fried chips made from premium cuts of chicken and tapioca flour.” Shrooms Peppered Beef and Portabella Splits Mushroom Snack blended beef and mushroom ingredients while Leaf Jerky Korean Barbecue Plant Based Jerky was soy-based.

Some big names also moved into meat snacks. Butterball Premium Turkey Snacks launched in various flavors including Citrus Teriyaki. Elsewhere, Conagra Brands extended its popular Slim Jim brand into Pork Rinds (noting that pork rind sales are expanding at double-digit rates).

Snack mixes also saw interesting newcomers. The Ferrero Group launched a Keebler Elfin Mix featuring Keebler cookies with Fudge Stripes Crunch. Snack nut giant Blue Diamond Growers also developed Blue Diamond Almonds & Fruit.

Still more activity involved General Mills, which introduced a Nature Valley Crunchy Snack Mix in box packaging. Conagra Brands also launched a David Energy Packed Mix of Roasted and Seasoned Lentils, Pumpkin Pepitas, Sunflower Kernels, Chickpeas. Last but not least, General Mills defended its popular Chex brand with Chex Mix Max’d Snack Mix in new flavors such as Spicy Dill.

In the fruit-based snacks, Sun Maid launched Sour Raisin Snacks to target the sour candies market—but with a less processed, no added sugar option. Its line includes flavors like Strawberry.

Other fruit snacks offered benefits over fresh fruit. Tree Top said its new Organic Dried Honeycrisp Apple Slices won’t bruise or rot, which are issues common to Honeycrisp apples. Mariani Packing Company introduced extended its probiotics fruit line with a Cranberries variety and claimed that the particular probiotic “survives 10x more effectively than yogurt cultures!”


Chipping Away

Chip innovation focused on fun and functionality. Pringles Mystery Potato Crisps asked Walgreens shoppers to guess the mystery flavor (Ham & Cheese) to win big. For Thanksgiving, Pringles added a Friendsgiving Feast Turducken Kit with “turkey, duck and chicken-flavored chips that you can stack and eat.”

Pop Gourmet brought the Hidden Valley Ranch brand to potato chips with Original Ranch Seasoned Wavy Crisps. Another interesting twist saw Kellogg Company take its Cheez-It cracker brand into chips with Cheez-It Snap’D.

Frito-Lay doubled the crunch with Ruffles Double Crunch Potato Chips, a thicker chip that holds more dip. It doubled down on the “Flamin’ Hot” flavor, extending it to Lay’s Flamin’ Hot Dill Pickle Flavored Potato Chips and Smartfood Flamin’ Hot White Cheddar Popcorn.

Potato chips also went gourmet in 2019. One entry was pink-skinned Trader Joe’s Rose Fingerling Potato Chips with Fresh Grey Guerande Sea Salt. Another was Savoursmiths Italian Cheese with Port Potato Chips, part of a new “luxury potato chip” line.

On the functional side, apple cider vinegar was a hero ingredient. Jackson’s Honest Apple Cider Vinegar Potato Chips and Kettle Brand Apple Cider Vinegar Potato Chips touted the flavor.

Tortilla chips saw a “grain free” segment emerge. Entries here included Siete Grain Free Tortilla Chips and Garden of Eatin Grain Free Tortilla Chips—both featuring cassava flour. Cassava also was featured in LesserEvil Grain Free Egg White Curls.

Cauliflower, butternut squash, and beets also replaced grain. Earthly Treats Inc. introduced Real Food From The Ground Up Cauliflower Tortilla Chips with cauliflower, although cassava was higher on the ingredient list. Cassava was a lead ingredient for Butternut Squash Pretzel Twists from the same brand. PopCorners’ new Flourish Lightly Salted Veggie Crisps included a Roasted Beets variety.

Other plant-based snacks used broad beans, pickles, and avocado. Enlightened Bada Bean Bada Boom Zesty Ranch Crunchy Broad Beans went with the former; Hippie Snacks Avocado Crisps the latter. Vlasic Pickle Chips were made with real pickles while chickpeas got a boost from Bush’s Best Crisp Roasted Chickpeas.

Flavor innovation was key for snack nuts and popcorn. Kraft Heinz added Planters Roasted Mixed Nuts with A1 and Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard flavor. After success with Taco Bell’s Taco Supreme flavor, Conagra Brands extended its BIGS Sunflower Seeds line with another popular fast-food favorite: cheeseburger. Trendy flavors like za’atar hit popcorn with Zesty Z Feta and Za’atar Mediterranean Popcorn.

Popcorn itself is in for a challenge in 2020. One interesting new entry is Pop Bitties air popped whole grain sorghum. Mark’s Mindful Munchies Inc. says it’s a “corn free” option that’s easier to digest than popcorn.

Last year, functional ingredients went after white space in popcorn, crisps, and puffed snacks. Living Intentions’ Himalayan Salt Activated MCT Popcorn hailed MCT’s ability to supply “the body with rapidly absorbed, high-quality energizing fuel.” Energy enhancement came from soy protein-based PopCorners Flex Energy Packed Protein Crisps.

SkinnyPop Popcorn Plus Collagen went the “beauty from within” route, tabbing one of Innova Market Insights’ top 2020 trends called “Eat Pretty.” Keto-friendly Fit Joy Grain Free Protein Puffs listed milk protein isolate as the top ingredient, delivering 18g of protein per serving.


Candy: Sweet & Sour

According to the International Food Information Council’s 2019 Food & Health Survey, eight in 10 Americans are limiting or avoiding sugar. At first glance, that would put candies and confections in a tough spot.

Confectionery launches were flat in 2019, but some sectors prospered. U.S. launches of gummies and jellies rose at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28% from 2014 to 2018, per the Innova Database, leading all confections. Wrapped chocolate pieces were not far behind.

Unwrapped chocolate pieces and hard candy went in the other direction, with negative compound annual growth rates of -10% and -9%, receptively.

Confectionery makers responded with mindful choices such as Hershey’s new Reese’s Thins Milk Chocolate Cups with Peanut Butter. Portion control worked for Mars Wrigley and its Snickers Squares in flavors such as Creamy Almond Butter.

Others went with better-for-you ingredients. Creamy yogurt flavored coating boosted Skittles Dips Bite Size Candies. Cashew butter headlined the vegan Hu Cashew Butter and Pure Vanilla Bean Dark Chocolate Bar. Kombucha popped up with Evas Cultured Candy.

Vosges Haut Chocolat added “hybrid” bar varieties such as Cheddar and Apple Chocolate and Reishi Walnut Chocolate. Raaka Chocolate’s new Unroasted Dark Chocolate with Oat Milk and Taza Chocolate’s new Almond Milk Classic Organic Chocolate Bar showed that plant-based “milk” may soon give cow’s milk a run for the money.

Plant-based ingredients were trendy. Per a 2019 Innova Market Insights survey, 63% of global consumers say they are incorporating more plant ingredients in the diet, opening the door to ingredients such as lavender, hibiscus, and more.

Antidote Lavender Flowers Plus Red Salt Dark Chocolate Bar has real lavender while the Boulder Chocolate Mango Hibiscus 58% Dark Chocolate Bar is dusted with hibiscus. Sugarfina USA LLC used citrus juice to reduce sugar by 30% in its Sugarfina Pressed Juicery Citrus Juice Gummy Bears.

Real blueberries headlined Ripe Revival Nutrient Dense Blueberry Gummies, one of the few candies using the phrase “nutrient dense.”

Cannabidiol (CBD) derived from the hemp plant was big in 2019. The Pure Hemp CBD Milk Chocolate Bar with 400mg of CBD was part of a wave of CBD-based launches. Chocolatl Chillout Chocolate Bites with Hemp CBD, Simply CBD Peppermint Chewing Gum, and Chong’s Choice CBD Gummies (from “the legendary Tommy Chong” of Cheech and Chong) were all part of this wave.

Candy makers looked to beverages for flavor innovation ideas in 2019.

In another new product venture, Sugarfina partnered with the popular LA coffee chain Alfred Coffee to create “But First Coffee” Cold Brew Bears. The product was billed as “the world’s first coffee-infused, caffeinated candy gummy bears.” Koppers Chocolate’s On The Rocks Chocolate Cold Brew Cordials also went the coffee route.

Dr Pepper Soft and Chewy Bites Candy from Kenny’s Candy Company tabbed soft drink flavors while alcoholic beverage flavors also found favor.

Maud Borup Inc., Plymouth, Minn., tapped craft beer flavor as inspiration for Craft Beer Candy Barrels (packaged in a can) with “I Love Brew” as the name. Elsewhere, other confectioners turned to wine, spirits and cocktails for more new products. Koppers Chocolate introduced Dark Chocolate Coated Sparkling Prosecco Cordials. Lake Champlain Chocolates created a Filled with Bourbon Caramel Bar. Even the Jelly Belly Candy Company created a Cocktails Classic line.

Candy makers found new ways to have fun in 2019. Hershey inked a licensing agreement with the emoji company to feature 25 different emoji images on its Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Emoji Bar. Mars celebrated Easter with Shell Smashers. When consumers smash a hollow milk chocolate egg, it reveals fun-size packages of M&M’s candy inside.

Texture also won in 2019. Hershey’s Gold Kisses Caramel Creme Chocolates with Pretzels Bits added crunch to Kisses. Hershey’s King Size Milk Chocolate used Whoppers malt flavored cookie bits for crunch. KIND Healthy Snacks also turned to roasted almonds and puffed quinoa for crunch.

Texture also mattered for chewing gum. Mars added the first-ever soft chew to the Extra brand with Extra Refreshers Gum in flavors like Polar Ice.

Mood-enhancing and energizing candies may drive future innovation. Seattle Gummy Company Mocca Shots High Energy Gummies “work 5x faster than coffee at half the price.” Simply Gum Awaken Chewing Gum delivers a burst of caffeine when chewed.

Candies that calm or soothe could prosper. Good Source Snacks Evening Calm Dark Chocolate Clusters use lavender to promote sleep while Luden’s Melatonin Soothers use melatonin for the same purpose.