With delivery and other temptations luring customers away from on-premise foodservice, operators in C&U, healthcare and corporate dining are searching for more powerful lures. For an increasing number, the answer lies in ramping up retail and expanding snack options.
But today’s consumers are looking for more than a bag of potato chips or cup of hummus. Packaged snacks must meet the demand for trend-setting flavors and ingredients, as well as healthfulness. Judging from the vast selection exhibited at the 2019 Summer Fancy Food Show, which took place in June in New York City, operators have plenty of options. To snag customers’ attention, consider these trends.
Ethnic flavors rise
Packaged snacks are taking cues from the same global cuisines trending in the center of the plate. Asian influences such as Indian, Thai, Korean and Japanese are especially prevalent. Some of the latest offerings include: crunchy chickpeas seasoned with Korean barbecue and Bombay spice; chips, nuts and other snacks flavored with Thai bird chiles, turmeric, ginger, and yellow and red curry; and mochi rice bites spiced with wasabi and tamari.
African ingredients are starting to emerge in the snack category. One brand of chips is dusted with peri peri, a signature South African spice typically used on grilled chicken, while another is made with fonio, a type of millet grown in West Africa. Middle Eastern influences are gaining ground, too. Rising on the heels of grab-and-go hummus snack cups are next-gen packs pairing baba ghanoush and tzatziki with pita chips. On the snack seasoning side, za’atar is on the rise.
In the last couple of years, gluten-free snacks made with cauliflower, black beans and lentils have grown. As plant-forward eating becomes more prevalent, other veggies are getting tapped for chips and crunchy nibbles. Leading the pack are umami-rich mushrooms: Shiitakes and other varieties are crisped and seasoned with Sriracha, barbecue and other flavors for satisfying snacking.
Also on the upswing are chips made from artichokes, jackfruit, Asian dragonfruit and purple sweet potatoes. And seasoned vegan jerky is now appearing, some using bananas or mushrooms as a base, while others are formed from plant proteins.
Multiple varieties of seeds are being baked into and layered onto snack foods—the more, the crunchier. Some boast health attributes, while others boost texture. One company offers organic flaxseed crackers with cinnamon and currants alongside toasted hemp seed and Hatch green chile crisps, while another is packaging coconut snack chips with chia, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
Ones to watch
Several trends that didn’t fit snugly into any one category are finding a niche in the snack section. Keep an eye out for these:
- Pickled notes. While kimchi and other ethnic pickled preps are popular, dill pickle popcorn and potato chips are leading the snack lineup, and one company is packing snacking pickles in single-serve pouches.
- Seaweed. In step with the Japanese influence, seaweed is getting some snacking action. On offer are crispy rolled and baked seaweed sticks, tempura seaweed chips and sticky rice chips flavored with seaweed.
- Sweet spices. Cinnamon is making more of an appearance, flavoring everything from chips to crunchy broad beans, pumpkin seeds and ultrathin wafers.
- Zero waste. Invented in a restaurant kitchen as a way to repurpose unused cooked quinoa, crunchy quinoa bites flavored with everything bagel spice are now being packaged and sold as snacks. Ditto with beverages made from leftover pickled vegetable brine, which come in three flavors: carrot aji pepper, smoked tomato chipotle and beet horseradish.
- Functional sips. Beverages are tapping into ingredients with health-promoting properties. Drinks sweetened with birch sap are flavored with goji berries, antioxidant-rich honey water is enhanced with blueberries and turmeric adds a healthy twist to sparkling water.