Putting the Healthy Back in Healthy Snacks
You may or may not have seen that survey where millennials said they are skipping cereal for breakfast because they don’t like having to wash the bowl. What’s up with that? While cereal was created as a fast alternative to a hearty bacon and eggs breakfast, kids these days say preparing this almost-instant breakfast is too much work for the most important meal of the day.
Feel free to scoff at millennials’ laziness, or bemoan their busy schedules and crushing expectations at work. However, there’s no denying that young people are gravitating toward convenience foods that can be eaten on the go, with little or no mess to clean up afterword. Like it or not, the selfie generation sets trends that spread to consumers of all ages.
Gone are the days where our nourishment consisted of three square home-cooked meals, served hot from the oven by an aproned housewife. In today’s world, where both men and women are pushed to devote their all at work, and where working parents are the norm rather than the exception, consumers don’t always have time to sit down at the table, let alone cook a three-course dinner.
Cue the rise of the healthy snack. As the amount of time Americans spend at the stove and the table has fallen, the number of snacks we eat each day has risen from 1.9 snacks in 2010 to 2.8 snacks in 2015. In fact, 51 percent of all Americans consume more than three snacks a day, and as consumers’ snacking habits skyrocket, the line between snacks and meals becomes blurred.
With the increasing importance of snacks in the average American’s diet comes increased demand for healthy snacks that satisfy consumers’ taste buds and their waistlines. We at Warrell Corp. understand the importance of tailoring your private and contract label candy ingredients to meet these new consumer demands. Join us as we explore today’s changing snacking landscape, and learn how food distributors can give their products a health makeover that will bring their products into the 21st century.
You Are What You Eat
The rise of snacking as an alternative to traditional mealtimes has caused consumers to change what they are looking for in a snack. When snacks were once treated as an occasional indulgence – for example, to celebrate a child’s birthday at school or to soak up a few drinks during a company happy hour – it was fine to turn to empty calories like doughnut holes or nachos. However, if you replace a hearty lunch with a bag of Doritos, you’ll be on the road to looking and feeling less than your best.
Now that Americans are getting more and more of their daily calories from snacks, they’re demanding that these foods have the same nutrient density as the foods they eat at meals. Out with the cheese puffs, and in with the freeze-dried edamame, hummus packs, and salmon jerky.
Healthy snacks can be divided into two categories: meal supplements and meal replacements. The former are generally consumed between meals, and can range from a packet of chocolate cookies to a bag of spicy nut clusters to a mini cup of Greek yogurt. While they may be sweet or savory, light or protein-packed, they are generally limited in calories so as to calm hunger without spoiling one’s appetite for an upcoming meal.
Snacks intended as on-the-go meal replacements are most commonly sold in bar form, but can be sold in other formats such as smoothies. Meant as a quick meal alternative for busy workers, these snacks are designed to be eaten while doing other things, since they are not messy and should be able to be eaten using one hand and no silverware. Meal replacements tend to be higher in protein and calories to keep people feeling fuller longer. With the exception of energy-packed foods marketed to athletes, they should also be light enough to appeal to consumers who are on a diet.
At first glance, designing a healthy snack may be a little daunting. How do you make foods that taste good without loading them with mouth-pleasing fats and sugars? With a little bit of creativity, you too can create snacks that people feel good about eating for more reason than one.
The Clean Eating Movement
Have you seen the hashtag #cleaneating next to a healthy meal or snack one of your friends posted on Instagram? Somewhat related to the cleanse diet, clean eating is a dietary philosophy that emphasizes consuming whole or minimally processed foods. Clean eating piggybacks on the local and organic food trends, and holds crossover appeal to consumers looking to protect the environment, prevent chronic illnesses and lose weight.
This isn’t just a fringe trend. In the past five years, we’ve seen sales of natural and organic foods and beverages nearly double. Surveys show that the inclusion of natural ingredients is the No. 1 attribute that consumers look for when purchasing a snack.
Notice anything contradictory going on here? Today’s consumer seems to barely have time to wash out their cereal bowl, let alone cook themselves a meal of garden-fresh produce. Yet they are investing more thought than ever before about the ethical, environmental and health implications of their food.
It’s a good thing snack manufacturers are perfectly positioned to meet these new consumer demands. The more you can emphasize that your product is all-natural and made from quality whole ingredients, the more you can appeal to consumers looking for both health and convenience. While certain fresh foods can never be packaged and preserved long term – we’re thinking sushi and salads – snack manufacturers still have plenty options for healthy ingredients.
While you may not be packaging fresh fruits and vegetables, you can do the next best thing by creating snacks with simple, recognizable ingredients. Include dried fruit or a soft puree as a candy or energy bar ingredient to emphasize the wholesome goodness of your product. A good way to judge whether your snack will appeal to clean eaters is to read the ingredients list. Can you picture every ingredient in your head? If not, think about whether you can change a chemical ingredient with a clean alternative.
Have you heard of quinoa, acai or Greek yogurt? While the recent obsession over food ingredients presents snack manufacturers with some challenges, it also gives them the opportunity to hook customers by including trendy superfoods. A snack made with less exotic ingredients may be jam-packed with vitamins and minerals, but statistics like “100 percent daily value of vitamin C” won’t produce the same gut-level reaction as a label stating “a full bunch of kale in every bag.” Choose a superfood known for being a nutritional powerhouse, and you’ll give your product a health halo that will have it flying off the shelves.
Be aware that nutritional trends, like all trends, tend to come and go, and yesterday’s superfoods are today’s supermarket staple – think beets or avocados. Be prepared to change your product frequently to capitalize on the latest food craze. Maple water, anyone?
Let Them Eat Cake
Does all of this talk about natural foods have you imagining hippies sprinkling wheat germ on their unsweetened whole grain hot cereal? While today’s consumers are more health conscious than generations before them, they are also aspiring gourmands who expect their snacks to be delicious and nutritious. They want to have their cake, and eat it guilt-free too.
Take a look at successful healthy snack options, and you’ll notice that they have more in common with high-end baked goods than the leaden granola bars from a ‘70s natural foods cookbook. Although Americans are becoming more dependent on their snacks to provide the nutrition they need, they are reaching for snack foods for the same reasons they always have. Usually, people snack when they’re stressed or tired, and need a little treat to get them through their day. Their brain wants a healthful source of clean energy, but their taste buds want something more sinful.
Successful products balance taste and nutrition by choosing healthy ingredients that don’t sacrifice flavor. Luckily, there’s a whole range of delicious health-conscious ingredients out there that can help you achieve this holy grail of snack production. How about incorporating coconut flour, agave nectar or cacao nibs into a new sweet treat? What about confections chock-full of almonds and dried cherries, or macadamia nuts and mango paste? Dark chocolate is the undisputed king of healthy indulgences, as almost anything covered in an unctuous shell of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate feels like a treat.
Another strategy for appealing to customer’s competing desires for decadence and restraint is marketing smaller quantities of less-healthy foods. Portion-controlled snacks, like individually wrapped miniature versions of classic candies and calorie-limited snack packs, help consumers who might not be able to stop themselves after one brownie to moderate their intake. After all, any food can have only 100 calories – so long as you guide your customers on how much they should eat.
Make It Better
This brings us to the “better for you” snack market, a compromise between health foods we know we should eat and the indulgence we crave. Many consumers who feel they shouldn’t eat a certain product can be swayed into purchasing when producers offer a healthier alternative. Chips are an excellent example of this phenomenon. Look through the savory snack section of any grocery store or high-end convenience store, and you might find baked chips, bean chips, veggie chips, pasta chips, plantain chips, kale chips, popped chips – the list goes on and on.
The psychology behind these products is clear: Customers in the chip aisle are battling conflicting desires for salty, crunchy potato chips and a beach-ready body. If snack companies can satisfy both of these desires with a tangy barbecue crisp that has been popped rather than fried, their products will make it into the grocery carts of these conflicted consumers.
The great news here is that a product doesn’t have to be the pinnacle of nutrition to appeal to health-conscious shoppers. It merely has to be an improvement over the familiar product a shopper knows and loves. How can you tweak your product to give it a health boost that pushes it above its competition? Could an all-natural version of a favorite candy bar make the corn syrup-sweetened bars from the other company look like a veritable chemistry experiment? How about a superfood-boosted line of energy bars that packs a stronger nutritional punch than the regular granola bars the next shelf over?
Fats and sweeteners are a great place to start your product’s healthy makeover. While it may be cheap and certainly gets the job done, high fructose corn syrup has become a no for many consumers. Try replacing corn syrup with all-natural cane sugar, or up your game with maple syrup, honey, agave or stevia. Trans fats should also be nixed from your products. You might score some bonus points by enriching your products with a heart-healthy fat like coconut oil. When sourcing ingredients, look for certified organic and non-GMO ingredients whenever possible.
Don’t forget to design packaging that highlights your health makeover. While healthier candy and snack ingredients might cost a little bit extra, today’s savvy consumers are willing to pay a premium when they recognize a superior product.
No Dairy, No Wheat, No Problem!
How many people do you know who eat gluten-free? How about paleo, or vegan, or low-carb? If we asked you this question 10 years ago, you might be identify a few friends who were vegetarians. Today, a whopping 45 percent of millennials report that they are on a special diet.
Producers have been responding to consumer demands for products that conform to these diets. If you talk to anyone who discovered a gluten intolerance 10 years ago, chances are they’ll tell you about subsisting on rye crisp sandwiches and red sauce over rice noodles. Luckily, things these days are different. Take a look around, and you’ll find gluten-free bars at college dining halls, gluten free options on most restaurant menus and even full bakeries devoted to gluten-free goods. Many grocery stores even have a full aisle devoted to consumers on special diets, which are stocked with alternative grains, high-quality gluten-free pasta and nut-free spreads.
It’s not just personal preference that is driving consumers to limit their diets. As more people become aware of the link between food and well-being, a growing number of people have discovered that avoiding certain foods is the easiest way for them to manage a chronic health condition.
On a scarier note, food allergies are on the rise, and currently affect more than 15 million Americans. According to a study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased approximately 50 percent between 1997 and 2001. We don’t know why food allergies have become so prevalent that they affect 1 in every 13 children, but we do know that we can help people with food allergies live a normal life by providing them with allergen-free versions of the same high-quality products we offer the general population.
Some common allergens include:
- tree nuts, such as almonds and pecans
Allergies affect a sizable population of adults, but are especially prevalent in children, and many parents are on the lookout for allergy-safe, kid-approved snacks that make packing lunches a snap. Allergen-alternative products made with ingredients like imitation nut butters are gaining popularity in large institutions like schools, many of which have completely banned peanuts in order to protect children who have life-threatening allergies.
It’s worth noting that creating allergy-safe products isn’t as simple as removing soy oil or wheat flour from a few of your recipes. Some consumers with particularly sensitive allergies can be sent to the hospital by even trace airborne amounts of an allergen. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that a product marked “peanut free” be produced in a manufacturing center that follows strict allergy-safe protocol to prevent even the slightest cross-contamination.
When crafting a product for a special diet, think about whether or not you can market it to the general population. While making an energy bar vegan may widen your potential customer base to include both vegans and nonvegans, a gluten-free snack cake will likely appeal only to customers who are gluten-free.
That’s not always a bad thing! Producers who make a special effort to create products appropriate for a special diet often find an especially loyal customer base. It makes sense – while most consumers can afford to be choosy about which energy bar best fits their budget and taste preferences, a gluten-intolerant vegan customer will likely return again and again to what might be the only high-quality bar they are able to eat.
When a product has limited appeal, it’s important to be smart about marketing and placing it in stores that will reach your customer base. While the potential customer base of a special-diet product may be relatively small, these customers – once reached – often consume large amounts of the product, and will sometimes even purchase your product in bulk online.
Getting in on the Healthy Snack Trend
Creating a delicious product just isn’t enough to satisfy today’s savvy consumer. Customers these days don’t just want a tasty candy bar. They want a responsibly produced, minimally processed, nutrient-packed bar made from recognizable yet exotic ingredients appropriate to their special diet. They want creative flavors that let them indulge while making a nutritionally sound decision.
Capitalizing on just a few of these trends will help you stand out in today’s varied marketplace. Luckily, Warrell Corp. is here to help you with all of your private label and contract candy making needs. We understand the importance of building snacks with the freshest whole ingredients to appeal to your customers’ taste buds and their waistlines.
Whether you’re interested in carrying one of our time-tested private label candy lines or partnering with us for custom contract candy making, we guarantee you’ll be satisfied with our varied manufacturing processes, high-quality candy ingredients and packaging capabilities. Don’t just settle for producing the same snacks you’ve been marketing since the ‘90s. Give the people what they want. Let Warrell Corp. introduce you to our high-quality contract and private label ingredients, and bring your product into the 21st century with a health makeover.