Snacking is a way of life for Americans, with more than 90 percent of consumers reaching for a snack at least once a day. And while salty snacks tempt the palate and keep people reaching for more, healthier formulations made from kale, chickpeas and sweet potatoes are gaining traction with the nutrition-centered lifestyles of many of today’s consumers. According to a new report from Packaged Facts, this push toward healthier snacks has created a thriving market for alternative ingredient snacks made using pulses and alternative vegetables and grains. In fact, sales alternative ingredients snacks in 2017 are forecast to rise to $1.2 billion.
“Looking at both present trends and towards the future, alternative ingredient snack sales are going to continue moderate to strong growth over the next few years, building on the larger healthier-for-you trend affecting the overall snack market and on the unique flavors and textures consumers are also craving," said David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts.
The report noted the strong growth of sales of alternative vegetable-based snacks, particularly salty snack versions, was the largest factor contributing to the rise in sales in 2016. In fact, the salty snack segment carried the alternative-ingredient snack market in 2016, with growth of almost 7 percent, or faster growth than what was seen by salty snacks as a whole.
As the food & beverage editor here at INSIDER, I have witnessed this shift over the past few years. Take for example the Salty Snacks category for 2016 SupplySide CPG Editor’s Choice Award that garnered nominations for snacks packed with powerful flavors and ingredients such as whole grains, bamboo fiber and seeds along with gluten-free and non-GMO options. Finalists include indulgent crackers packed with seeds, whole grains and essential fats, gluten-free pretzels made with functional ingredients and a proprietary nutrient blend offering the same vitamin equivalent found in veggies. (Click here to see the finalists.)
But knowing your target market also is key, and according to Packaged Facts from 2006 to 2016, the percentage of all adults who usually only snack on healthy foods grew from 24 percent to 30 percent. Beyond the general uptick in healthy eating, the most important market drivers are demographic and have to do with age, specifically families with children and snackers making up the younger generational cohorts. For any given category of snack, the percentage of adults with children in the household who eat the snack is 19 percent or more than the percentage of adults who eat the snack and who do not have any children in the household.
While young families with children are extremely important for the alternative-ingredient snack market, it is fair to say that all younger people are an important demographic driver. There is a very large gap in the percentage of Millennials and Gen X adults who eat these snacks compared to those who are 50 and older. This type of snack, almost more than any other, appeals to younger people. While novelty is certainly a factor with Millennials, typically the reasons for why a person chooses alternative-ingredient snacks are essentially the same across all age groups; the number of those who are 50 or younger who choose to do so is simply much greater.