8 Snack Trends to Watch for in 2017

Christine Lavelle, Senior Editor/Snacks & Candy, CSP

Savory snacks

CHICAGO -- Driven by more urban living and growing demand from developing countries, forecasters say the global market for savory snacks is expected to grow from $94.5 billion in 2015 to $138.2 billion by 2020.

Research from several organizations, including Technomic, FONA International, Sterling-Rice Group and Mintel, points to a similar conclusion, that busier lifestyles are leading to consumers replacing main meals with more flexible, light and convenient snacking options.

Technomic reports that snacking has been on the rise for several years, but the last two years have marked a particularly notable growth, with 83% of consumers in 2016 vs. 76% in 2014 saying they snack daily. The growing trend of “snackification" is driving the demand for portable and on-the-go formats well-suited to the convenience-store retailer.

Here are eight trends to watch ...

1. More salty snacks with savory flavors

Spicy snacks

A recent report from FONA International found new product introductions for savory snacks showed an 18% increase from 2014-2015. New product introductions in North America showed a 3% growth in 2014-2015 that followed a 19% growth between 2013 and 2014.

Add to that a recent Mintel survey in which 38% of consumers stated that the single most important factor that would influence them to purchase salty snacks would be a new flavor launch. The top global savory snack flavors include smoke, vinegar, honey, spice, beef, pizza, barbecue and chargrilled, reported Chicago-based Mintel. Spicy flavors are big, influencing purchase for 30% of respondents. Researchers said continued innovation focusing on new savory flavors will keep loyal consumers trying these new flavors, while attracting a whole new audience. Look for more popcorn, too, growing at 21%, as well as cheese snacks, which have a category share of 38%.

2. Roasted and toasted

Oven=baked potato chips

Different preparation techniques are expanding the flavor map. The most popular trend in this category is roasted/toasted. New roasted products grew 18% during 2014-2015, especially roasted coconut kale chips, oven-roasted sweet potato chips and a wide variety of roasted nuts, FONA International reported. With worldwide headquarters in Geneva, Ill., FONA International is focused on delivering high-value taste, technology and manufacturing solutions that grow consumer acceptance and grow brand preference and loyalty for customers in the areas of beverage, confection, grain, savory, healthcare and dairy/dessert.

3. Better-for-you continues to grow

Canned sardines

Ancient grains, root vegetables and seaweed continue to bring health to the salty-snack category. Seaweed, popular with some consumers since the 1980s, is a real presence on national grocery-chain shelves in a variety of palate-pleasing flavors such as onion, Sriracha and barbecue, FONA International reported. The research firm also said clean label is growing in salty snacks, with 56% of consumers concerned about the ingredients in salty snacks.

In its 2017 Culinary Trends report, Sterling-Rice Group (SRG) also noted that canned sardines are making a comeback, noted for being low in calories and high in omega-3s and proteins. Other ingredients showing up in snacks are chickpeas, legumes and turmeric, Boulder, Colo.-based SRG said.

Technomic reported that 48% of consumers purchase healthy snacks from a c-store at least occasionally, with trends in grab-and-go yogurt, fruit cups, hummus and veggie cups.

4. Packaging and portion size matters

Salad in a to-go container

Mintel reported on-the-go and resealable packaging is in high demand, as consumers like the portability, shareability and resulting convenience they provide. Single-serve packages continue to be important, especially to younger consumers.

Technomic reported that 59% of consumers say it's very important that snacks aren't too large.

5. Kids are influencers

Mother and daughter at store

Kids are the biggest influencers when it comes to purchasing snacks, according to Mintel's 2017 Consumer Trends research, so parents are becoming more aware of what they're putting into their children's—and their own—mouths.

6. Sweets still in demand


Consumers still want indulgent snacks. SRG forecasters see more people eating cake for breakfast, and Mintel predicts that a chocolate at bedtime will be seen as the perfect way to relieve the day's tension.

7. Think crickets for protein

Crickets on a plate

"Bug-related stuff is big" as customers seek cheap sources of protein, said Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, at the recent Net/Net event at the New York Stock Exchange. PepsiCo closely studies what consumers will want to snack on in the future so that it can be the provider of those snacks. "[Experts] said the hottest thing is eating crickets," Nooyi said. "I am not talking about the game cricket, I am talking about crickets. In chips."

Saying she is a vegetarian, she added, "I am not eating any cricket chips. But they said if you want a high protein source, there is a series of products being launched with crickets." Nooyi said it's not mainstream, but Pepsi is looking 10 years out and "we are seeing some of the weirdest food and beverage habits showing up."

8. Breakfast fare for snacks

Breakfast on a plate

Technomic's 2016 Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report found that 41% of consumers agree that any food can be a snack if the portion size is small, and predicted that consumption will increase for all-day breakfast fare during snack occasions. Technomic also noted that eggs are a vegetarian protein, which make them an appealing high-energy snack. The report also forecast that operators will experiment with bundled, all-day breakfast value meals, as well as pairings of snack-sized beverage and breakfast items.