The snack industry in the United States is as strong as ever, according to a new report, “Snack Food Nutrition Trends: Pulses, Vegetables and Grains in Salty Snacks and Crackers,” commissioned by market research firm Packaged Facts. The study found that sales of salty snacks like potato chips, pretzels and popcorn, as well as portable meat snacks like jerky, have grown in sales or at least remained steady in the past five years.
However, the snack industry has benefitted from an influx of healthier snack formulations that meet today’s consumers’ nutrition-focused lifestyles. This push for healthier alternatives has creating a thriving market for products formulated with pulses or alternative vegetables and grains like chickpeas, sweet potatoes, kale and spinach. The report found that sales of alternative-ingredient snacks are expected to increase to $1.2 billion in 2017.
"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 biggest contributor to rising sales in 2016 was alternative vegetable-based snacks, especially in salty varieties. Packaged Facts estimates that the salty snack segment of the alternative-ingredient snack market grew almost 7 percent in 2016, faster growth than was seen by the salty snack category as a whole. In the decade leading up to 2016, adults who usually snack on healthy foods grew 6 percent, from 24 to 30 percent.
Younger consumers seem to be driving the growth; a large gap exists between Gen Y and Gen X adults who eat such snacks and those who are over 50 years of age.