Consumers continue to seek healthy snack options

From Mondelēz International Foodservice.

Satisfying the demand for healthy snacks, a growing movement within the food industry, is an important profit center for operators who sell snacks and desserts.

Since 2004, the number of consumers categorized as “healthy snackers” has grown from 29 million to 41 million, or from 14 percent to 18 percent of the population, according to the Crackers: U.S. Market Trends report by Packaged Facts. These people gravitate to snacks made with ingredients such as vegetables, legumes, high-protein foods and ancient grains.

Food manufacturers are introducing a growing number of products designed for these mindful snackers. For example, English muffins, bagels and sweet baked goods are examples of products that are being formulated with less sodium, sugar and fat, higher levels of fiber and whole grain and to be natural, organic and gluten free, according to a report titled Packaged Breakfast Baked Goods: U.S. Market Trends by Packaged Facts.

Nevertheless, when the snacking urge strikes, it is not always easy to find healthful items in foodservice operations. For instance, only 43 percent of the consumers surveyed in Technomic’s Sandwich Consumer Trend Report say they are satisfied with the healthfulness of sandwiches away from home, and 50 percent say they would like to see more healthy sides to pair with sandwiches. Those findings, coupled with the fact that diners also say they would like more restaurants to offer mini sandwiches (35 percent agree, up from just 26 percent in 2010), suggest an opportunity for operators to retool their sandwich offerings with a greater emphasis on healthy snacking options.

Protein is a key nutritional component for many healthy snackers. In fact, 62 percent of consumers make it a point to get more protein in their diets today, according to the Proteins-Classic, Alternative and Exotic Sources: Culinary Trend Tracking Series report by Packaged Facts, which cited the popularity of the protein-centric Paleo and Primal diets as evidence of the trend. The study mentioned products such as drinkable yogurt, almonds and nut butters, high-protein and better tasting snack bars, analogs for chicken protein and exotic meats as sales opportunities.

However, the rise of healthier fare should not distract operators from providing flavor, convenience and variety in the snack and dessert merchandise mix as well.

Flavor is especially significant, because the consumer who is a healthy snacker today may reach for an indulgent snack or dessert tomorrow. Thus while it is important to stock yogurt, fresh fruit, nuts, breakfast biscuits and whole-grain products for mindful snacking, do not neglect to carry fun treats such as snack chips, crackers, chocolate chip cookies and candy, for those occasions when even confirmed healthful eaters flip the switch to mild indulgence.

In addition, keep in mind that snacks and desserts are most appealing when they are convenient. Time-pressed customers appreciate a selection of single-serve packaged items for grab-and-go purchases.

A trusted partner can be a big help to an operator navigating the changing and often complex tides of consumer behavior. Consider teaming up with a manufacturer that offers up-to-to-minute research, trend analysis and category management support as well as the market-leading brands of snacks and desserts that delight your customers. 

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