Tag Archives: jerky

5 Snacks to Watch – Sweets and Snacks Expo, Part 1

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Last week was a double-dip of intense investigative pseudo-journalism. First the National Restaurant Association show, then the Sweets & Snacks Expo.

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Following summarizes The Armchair MBAs discoveries from 5 hours of walking the Sweets & Snacks Expo floor at McCormick Place in Chicago, 5 miles of shoe leather, and way too many samples.

The short story – while the overall sweets and snacks landscape is relatively stable (popcorn, nuts, chips, chocolate, etc), around the edges you could see green shoots of innovation.  And that was about the only green I saw at this show.

Snacks are covered today; Sweets to follow soon.

Snacks – mega trends

Popcorn dominated the floor, with dozens of options in every flavor, claim, and form imaginable. Many were jumping on the SkinnyPop ’35 calories per cup’ bandwagon – – when of course no one has EVER had less than 5 cups of ‘CrackPop’ at a sitting.  It is impossible to describe all the popcorn products that were shown.

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–  Flavored nuts, veggie, fruit and grain based chips, and other things that started life simple and healthy and then got transformed beyond recognition.

–  Jerky. Around for centuries, jerky’s high protein/low carb profile has moved it beyond trucker feed to be now ready for its close-up.  At least 20 companies were showing off their jerky.

Here’s a little Brand Extension 101 for you:
–  Expanded category definition: from beef to elk, bison, turkey, chicken, salmon (the salmon jerky is extra high protein, and tasted great  — if sometimes a little chewy)

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RB-teriyaki-jerky

Flavor proliferation: pepper, acaí berry, ginger & wasabi, jalapeño, honey spice, chile ‘n lime, roasted cayenne, etc.

Price stratification: companies like Duke’s are now selling ‘small batch’ jerky at higher prices.

Form differentiation – a company called Kratos is trying to avoid the impending jerky shakeout by positioning (and shaping) their beef product like a healthy protein bar, complete with “Unleash your Warrior” tagline and impossibly fit people on their website.  Nice work, actually.

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5 snack products worth keeping an eye on:

1.  SuperSeedz gourmet pumpkin seeds – high protein, claims galore, 8 flavors and a clever name; delicious

SuperSeedz

2.  EatKeenwa Krunch – the only quinoa-based cluster snack that I noticed, and quite tasty, even if the ‘clusters’ crumbled a bit in the bag

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3.  Ocean’s Halo seaweed chips – if I got the backstory right, 2 dads from Korea who grew up eating seaweed, and 2 dads from the U.S. who grew up eating tortilla chips got together on this – the not-surprising result being a hearty chip that is somewhat reminiscent of sushi. Surprisingly good, particularly with a salmon jerky chaser.  The only seaweed chips at the show.

Oceans Halo big_seasalt3

4. Snikiddy Eat Your Vegetables veggie chips –a strong claim of ‘1 full serving of vegetables in every ounce’, offset somewhat by fat count (7g/oz) which is a bit on the high side for a vegetable

snikiddy_EYV_jalapeno-470x5375. Simple Squares organic snack bars. Reflective of trends toward raw/paleo (minimally processed), simple label products. 5 ingredients, non-GMO, etc.

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That’s it for this installment.  Coming up:  Sweets!

Natural Products Expo West – My Top 10 Observations

Natural Products Expo West, just completed in Anaheim, bills itself as the largest natural and organic trade show in the world.  At 1 million+ square feet, almost 2500 exhibitors and 63,000 attendees, it is certainly large by any measure.  Having just finished walking most of those 1 million square feet, while my feet are temporarily elevated I have assembled an (unscientific) list of 10 noteworthy observations from the show (in no particular order).

NaturalProductsExpoWest

1) Gluten-Free – – sure, it’s been a reliable presence for years, but it now seems that every other product at the show carried a gluten-free claim.  For the most part, the products were delicious.  Clearly this trend is maturing nicely and is here to stay.

2) Kale!   Yes, kale.  In all of its green, seaweed-tasting glory, manifested in all manner of baked goods, chips, and more.  Let’s check back in about 3 years to see how this trend hangs in there.

3) Bars, bars, bars and more bars.  Energy, fruit equivalence, satiety, muscle-enhancing, alertness, virility – – you name it, there’s a bar for it.  Conservatively more than 100 entries.  The good news: most of them actually taste very good.  The bad news:  there’s not enough shelf space in the world for all of them to survive.

4) Jerky – long a pariah at natural foods (aka aspiring vegan) shows, the snacks-with-parents segment was alive and well at Expo West 2013.  Beef, turkey, chicken, bison, and many other animals as well as faux-meat soy product, this was a year where the trucker target was well-served.  A regular Von Dutch treat, if you will.

5) the non-GMO conversation – Whole Foods changed the conversation at Expo West.  By announcing its commitment to labelling all products that contain genetically modified organisms by 2018, WF elevated this topic from a subject you might bring up to show off your Euro-knowledge, to a regular (functional) water cooler staple.  Everyone was talking about it; this announcement could be the tipping point in establishing non-GMO as a mainstream desired consumer benefit.

6) fewer ‘free from’ claims – with the obvious exception of non-GMO, there didn’t seem to be as many ‘free from’ or ‘less’ (fat, calories, sugar, etc) claims.  Instead, it was all about what was in the foods – – whether protein, antioxidants, minerals, or any of a lot of other things.

7) Chips – apparently, at this show if a food was left unattended, someone came along and zapped it with the chip gun.  How many things can you make into a chip?  In addition to the now-mainstream PopChips, there were also falafel chips, pineapple coconut chips, chia chips, cookie chips, spinach chips, lentil chips, and yes, Virginia, there are kale chips too — lots of them.

8) High-end chocolates – – right up there in abundance with chips and nutrition bars, it seemed that every time you turned around, some smiling young person was shoving a piece of $7/bar chocolate in your face (which of course, you were too polite to refuse).  The venerable gourmet segment pioneered by the likes of Lindt, now goes for $2-3/oz (and more) after being reinvented about 10 years ago with the unique entries from companies like Vosges (e.g. bacon, chile inclusions) and competitors have been piling in ever since.  Mostly excellent products; again the sad part is that not all will survive.

9) Raw foods – this is an increasingly common theme for many new natural/organic products (and companies); it’s about foods that are the ultimate in closeness to nature – – unprocessed and uncooked.  In a variety of different products – -and candidly there were a few I’m not sure I’d ingest before a 4 hour flight.  The concept was really brought to life for me when a spokesperson for a nut and seed bar (with raw chia seeds!) explained that if he unwrapped his bar and planted it, it would grow.  And all those childhood fears of orange trees growing in my stomach suddenly came rushing back.

10) Naturally enhanced – – I’m talking about the incredible variety of beverages (and just maybe also about some of the attendees).  In a continuing crusade to provide the world with healthier and perhaps more politically correct alternatives to sugar/HFCS-sweetened drinks, Expo West really came through.  Coconut or oatmeal (or chia) based, probiotic, macrobiotic, kombucha, it goes on and on and on – and this doesn’t even include the supplements.  Yowza.

The only downside to the show was the sheer number, depth and quality of displays.  Would have loved another few days – well, there’s always next year.