Natural Foods Merchandiser

Snackers gravitate toward healthier options

A consumer movement toward healthier eating, balance and moderation is under way. This trend is largely driven by increased awareness of the obesity and diabetes epidemics, heightened media coverage, label regulations around trans fats and hydrogenated oils, and the growing popularity of natural and organic products. As consumers consider healthier eating options, snacking is one of the first areas where they seek alternative products. Better-for-you snacks can include fruit, yogurt and cereal, as well as salty snacks like nuts, chips and pretzels.

While the chips, pretzels and snacks category has evolved to include a wide variety of better-for-you options, the nuts, seeds, dried fruit and trail mix category has inherently included healthier snacks, and their benefits have recently become more widely understood. Total sales (in conventional and naturals supermarkets) of natural and naturally positioned* items for the latest 52-week period increased by 10.3 percent in the chips, pretzels and snacks category and 16.8 percent in the nuts, seeds, dried fruit and trail mix category.

Based on current 52-week dollar sales, potato chips and corn and tortilla chips are the leading volume generators in the chips, pretzels and snacks category; potato chips lead conventional supermarket category sales, while corn and tortilla chips lead in the naturals channel. The three highest absolute dollar-growth subcategories across channels are potato chips, bagel and pita chips, and puffed snacks. In naturals supermarkets, the pretzel subcategory is the third-largest dollar gainer, with bagel and pita chips ranking sixth.

In the nuts, seeds, dried fruit and trail mix category, dried fruit produces the most cross-channel dollar volume and accounts for the highest absolute dollar growth in both conventional and natural supermarkets. Trail mix is the second-largest overall dollar gainer, ranking second in naturals supermarkets and third in conventional.

*SPINS defines natural as items that contain only natural ingredients and are free of synthetic ingredients, artificial flavors, pesticides, colors, preservatives, additives and sweeteners, and are generally minimally processed. Naturally positioned products are those items that are positioned/perceived as natural and healthy but not always made with all-natural ingredients.
Both categories exhibit signs of change as suppliers work to meet consumer preferences and demands. New products are plentiful: In the most recent 52 weeks, naturals supermarkets introduced 107 new items in the chips, pretzels and snacks category and 125 in nuts, seeds, dried fruit and trail mix, while conventional supermarkets introduced 62 and 37 new items in these respective categories. New items account for 24 percent of overall category dollar growth for chips, pretzels and snacks, and 16.8 percent for nuts, seeds, dried fruits and trail mix.

Growth drivers vary by subcategory. For mature segments, like potato chips, dollar growth is driven largely by the introduction of new items. However, for segments that are inherently healthier, like puffed snacks and packaged nuts, increased sales come from positive changes in velocity and distribution. This is especially apparent in conventional supermarkets, where existing items drove the majority of growth for puffed snacks and packaged nuts, and new items contributed less than 2 percent to total segment growth.

Innovation, with a focus on nutrition, ingredients and flavor, is a trait shared by many new product introductions. The January 2006 U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandate requiring manufacturers to list the amount of trans fat on product labels prompted many suppliers to reformulate entire product lines. Nearly one-third of new chip, pretzel and snack items are organic, and several others market health benefits including no or light salt, multigrain, no cholesterol, gluten-free and baked. New flavors are bold and include salsa, wasabi, jalapeño, smoky cheddar and olive. In nuts, seeds, dried fruits and trail mixes, products containing goji berries continue to gain popularity and drive category growth; for the most recent 52 weeks, total category sales for items with goji berries increased by 103 percent across conventional and natural supermarkets.

Conventional Supermarkets

Category - 52 week sales

Current $

Year Ago $

% Chg

Abs $ Chg

# New Items

New Item $

Total Chips, Pretzels and Snacks

$373,340,265

$337,048,478

10.8%

$36,291,787

62

$8,725,167

Bagel & Pita Chips

$28,119,213

$17,811,590

57.9%

$10,307,623

4

$1,292,408

Corn & Tortilla Chips

$96,351,271

$93,001,385

3.6%

$3,349,886

19

$908,286

Microwave & Unpopped Popcorn

$13,538,258

$13,009,278

4.1%

$528,980

0

$0

Other Snacks

$7,953,034

$8,398,045

-5.3%

-$445,011

9

$99,720

Popcorn

$3,918,594

$3,419,277

14.6%

$499,317

3

$215,334

Potato Chips

$104,981,441

$88,076,945

19.2%

$16,904,496

11

$4,893,879

Pretzels

$8,909,545

$7,341,974

21.4%

$1,567,571

6

$397,061

Puffed Snacks

$42,938,937

$34,465,775

24.6%

$8,473,162

4

$202,695

Soy Crisps & Snacks

$22,062,781

$27,824,047

20.7%

-$5,761,266

2

$3,833

Specialty Chips

$44,567,191

$43,700,162

2.0%

$867,029

4

$711,951


Natural Supermarkets

Category - 52 week sales

Current $

Year Ago $

% Chg

Abs $ Chg

# New Items

New Item $

Total Chips, Pretzels and Snacks

$149,916,223

$137,288,659

9.2%

$12,627,564

107

$3,049,136

Bagel & Pita Chips

$9,461,019

$7,877,211

20.1%

$1,583,808

7

$580,287

Corn & Tortilla Chips

$48,302,202

$46,658,855

3.5%

$1,643,347

30

$991,328

Microwave & Unpopped Popcorn

$3,457,436

$3,427,095

0.9%

$30,341

0

$0

Other Snacks

$9,434,088

$7,807,120

20.8%

$1,626,968

13

$1,149,399

Popcorn

$3,478,851

$2,645,783

31.5%

$833,068

6

$25,599

Potato Chips

$36,251,512

$32,553,407

11.4%

$3,698,105

32

$53,891

Pretzels

$11,379,543

$9,312,720

22.2%%

$2,066,823

3

$142,821

Puffed Snacks

$14,565,426

$12,021,300

21.2%

$2,544,126

2

$20,955

Soy Crisps & Snacks

$3,658,847

$5,110,597

-28.4%

-$1,451,750

6

$15,030

Specialty Chips

$9,927,299

$9,874,571

0.5%

$52,728

8

$69,826


Conventional Supermarkets

Category - 52 week sales

Current $

Year Ago $

% Chg

Abs $ Chg

# New Items

New Item $

Total Nuts, Seeds, Dried Fruit & Trail Mix

$31,297,568

$26,208,100

19.4%

$5,089,468

37

$618,208

Dried Fruits

$15,544,931

$13,123,559

18.5%

$2,421,372

21

$493,148

Dried Vegetables

$1,987,100

$1,390,877

42.9%

$596,223

7

$16,142

Packaged Nuts

$7,113,740

$6,145,876

15.7%

$967,864

4

$86,751

Seeds

$1,685,525

$1,357,173

24.2%

$328,352

0

$0

Trail Mix

$4,966,272

$4,190,615

18.5%

$775,657

5

$22,167


Natural Supermarkets

Category - 52 week sales

Current $

Year Ago $

% Chg

Abs $ Chg

# New Items

New Item $

Total Nuts, Seeds, Dried Fruit & Trail Mix

$39,799,284

$34,645,577

14.9%

$5,153,707

125

125 $1,098,142

Dried Fruits

$20,537,578

$16,801,690

22.2%

$3,735,888

43

$338,595

Dried Vegetables

$7,470,225

$6,710,141

11.3%

$760,084

11

$76,672

Packaged Nuts

$6,620,851

$7,197,169

-8.0%

-$576,318

40

$173,170

Seeds

$1,922,866

$1,743,894

10.3%

$178,972

5

$2,715

Trail Mix

$3,247,764

$2,192,683

48.1%

$1,055,081

26

$506,990


Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 9/p. 132

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