Prepared Foods talks bakery flavor trends with George Vindiola, vice president, R&D, Campbell Snacks. The Campbell Snacks unit includes such brands as Goldfish Crackers, Farmhouse, Milano, Cape Cod, Lance, Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps, Snyder's of Hanover, Late July, and Kettle brand chips. From 2016 to 2018, Vindiola served as Senior Director of Operations at Pepperidge Farm. He was promoted in 2018 to Vice President, R&D Operations, Campbell Snacks. In 1996, Vindiola earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Texas A&M University. His 25-year career includes product development roles at both Frito-Lay and PepsiCo.

Prepared Foods: Where you go for snack category inspiration for new product flavors, tastes or textures? In what ways has it been more challenging during the pandemic? 

George Vindiola: When considering what is coming next in our portfolio, we pull inspiration from a variety of places. This includes looking at our Snyder’s of Hanover consumer and what they’re looking for. We value our fans’ feedback and take it into consideration during the ideation process.

We also look at IRI data and trend reports to see what is trending and performing well with consumers. While the pandemic has been challenging in many ways, we know there has been a rise in at-home snacking, so we are using the new trends and ways of life as inspiration to continue creating really good food. 

PF: We have a July feature on bakery flavors and see that one of your latest innovations are Twisted Pretzel Sticks from Snyder’s of Hanover. Can you share a little about developing and launching that product during COVID, while you and team members were working remotely? For example, what can you say about getting the seasoning flavors just right?

Vindiola: Hundreds of versions of the seasonings were evaluated, and, for months, the entire team working on Twisted Pretzel Sticks received daily shipments of the pretzels to taste test. We wanted each variety of the three flavors to be bold and complement our pretzel just perfectly. We were actually inspired by popular potato chip flavors!

PF: Yes indeed! Can we elaborate on the consumer trends that guided your flavor selections?

Vindiola: Leading up to the development of Twisted Pretzel Sticks, we saw a few consumers trends that helped our decisions including the desire for bold and spicy flavors in their snacks, according to Novo Taste. We also saw consumers seeking unique flavor combinations, which informed our Sour Cream & Onion variety. 

PF: How do you describe the “Extreme Seasoned” Variety? What led you to that product over perhaps a different flavor combination? 

Vindiola: We created Snyder’s of Hanover Extreme Seasoned Twisted Pretzel Sticks as it really encapsulates the bold flavor with a blend of delicious spices such as garlic and onion as well as notes of butter that leave your taste buds wanting more.  

PF: Other than taste, what was another critical product element? 

Vindiola: Getting the texture right was key! Our pretzels are slow-baked for an unbelievable crunch that delivers on texture in every bite, so we went through multiple rounds of testing until the texture was just right.

PF: How did you approach consumer testing during such a trying time?

Vindiola: In our daily virtual meetings, we discussed the feedback from our consumers for more bold flavors to elevate their snacking experience to get the Twisted Pretzel Sticks seasoning just right.  We discussed all of the seasoning options and combinations in depth as we looked to appeal to these consumer needs. We also ran several rounds of consumer testing to optimize both the flavors and the texture.