Last week was a double-dip of intense investigative pseudo-journalism. First the National Restaurant Association show, then the Sweets & Snacks Expo.
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.
– 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)
– 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.
5 snack products worth keeping an eye on:
1. SuperSeedz gourmet pumpkin seeds – high protein, claims galore, 8 flavors and a clever name; delicious
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
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.
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
5. Simple Squares organic snack bars. Reflective of trends toward raw/paleo (minimally processed), simple label products. 5 ingredients, non-GMO, etc.
That’s it for this installment. Coming up: Sweets!