Snacks have officially become the fourth meal of the day, according to the NPD Group. Snacks now account for 21% of all meals consumed. And they’re no longer simply a hunger-soothing bridge between formal meals. Now they’re gastronomical events in their own right. Because of this, according to Packaged Facts, consumers want more from their snacks: vivid flavor, quality ingredients and pumped up nutrition.
The latest snacks are combining health and indulgence, with a new focus on ingredient quality, a kind of “premiumization” trend affecting snacks across categories. This quality trend stems in part from the fact that 23% of snacks are coming from restaurants (NPD Group).
The 2009 Culinary Trend Mapping Report from the Center for Culinary Development and Packaged Facts identified three high-end restaurant trends affecting the broader snacks market:
- Gastropubs: UK-style casual but upscale restaurant/wine bars with emphasis on bold nibbles and smalls plates — spiced nuts, cheese plates and house-made potato chips.
- Cicchetti: “Little snacks” originally from Venice — olives, mini sandwiches and crostini.
- Izakaya dishes: Borrowed from Japanese sake bars, these are little nibbles — chicken wings, salted soybeans, grilled short ribs.
The report identified several ways these trends are being translated…
- Swanky Pork Rinds : Once they were “bubba bites,” the mass-produced favorites primarily of blue-collar snackers. Then they became in vogue during the Atkins low-carb era. Now the so-called “real meat” movement is driving a new wave of interest in artisanal pork rinds in high-end restaurants and bars. They’re also showing up in packaged form, as pricey bags of handmade nibbles, often made from natural and heritage breed pork.
- Gastro Popcorn:Consumers are seeking lighter snacks that combine the familiar with a new twist. That’s why high-end popcorn is a hit, including flavors such as curry, black truffles and Parmesan cheese. White-tablecloth restaurants and bars have made these gourmet popcorns a specialty, tailoring their flavor profiles to go with wine, cocktails or even stand as a substitute for bread and butter before a meal.
- Seaweed Snacks: Health-minded consumers seeking low-calorie, high-nutrition snacking options are looking more frequently to the sea. Seaweed snacks include chips, crackers and other crisp, seasoned snacks made with sea veggies.
- Alternative Chips: There’s been a proliferation of colorful snack chips that go beyond the traditional potato. Many are premium snacks with artisan and gourmet appeal, such as those made from Yukon Gold and Red Bliss potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnips.
- Crispy Veggies and Legumes: New snacks are being made with soybeans, chickpeas, green beans and sliced tomatoes. Most are fried or baked; a few are dehydrated.
- Whole-Nutrition Sweets: The latest better-for-you sweet snacks are made from whole grains and legumes, including brown rice, soybeans and lentils. They’re the unlikely ingredients in the sweets consumers are munching for flavor and nutrition, especially protein and fiber.
- Nuts Gone Global:No longer simply about plain or honey roasted, now you can find flavors like wasabi, soy sauce, lime and chiles — with performance benefits such as increased energy and stamina.
I recently tried a new snack that plays into these trends. [Full disclosure: free product was shipped to me to sample.] I’m always a little skeptical when a packaged snack is trying hard to be healthy. But I must admit, I liked these more than I thought I would.
Somersaults are the creation of some Bay Area natural foodies who were on a quest to create “healthy, tasty snacks for people who want more than just fluff.” They said they were disenchanted by unsatisfying snack options that they thought were “unhealthy belly fillers.”
So they wanted to turn the world of snacking upside down with Somersaults. Not sure they’ve done that, but they have created a unique snack that tastes pretty darn good. The crunchy bite-size nuggets are made with sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and toasted grains, and come in three creatively named flavors — Chez Cocoa, S.S. Sea Salt and Salty Pepper.
Yes, they do contain some added sugar. The company brags about “evaporated cane juice,” but that’s really no different than plain old sugar. The snacks are described as “all natural” and made with “simple, whole food ingredients.” And they’re promoting “mindful munching.” So they’ve captured the hot buzz words. Besides the seeds and grains, the nuggets also contain inulin, the trendy functional fiber from chicory root that is suddenly popping up in all sorts of packaged foods. Overall, I give Somersaults a thumbs up. They’re certainly a lot better option than you would typicaly find in vending machines or convenience stores. Plus, I liked their whimisical packaging and the sincerity of their creators.