CHICAGO — Healthy snacking has officially gone mainstream. Thirty-four percent of consumers say they’re eating more better-for-you snacks than they were two years ago, according to the 2018 Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report from CSP sister research firm Technomic. But while convenience-store snack manufacturers have listened loud and clear—focusing on innovation in baked chips and veggie snacks—health isn’t the only snacking trend stirring the category.
Here are four snack types that c-store experts expect to have a breakout year in 2019 …
Beef jerky is one of the most promising snack segments in c-stores. Unit sales grew 4.6% in the 52 weeks ending Dec. 30, 2018, according to IRI. The subcategory may be due for an even better 2019, with new jerky varieties hitting the market at lightning speed.
“Over the last year, we’ve seen the most innovation in meat snacks,” Aaron Mace, snacks category manager for Dash-In c-stores, a division of The Wills Group, La Plata, Md., told CSP Daily News. “Go to trade shows and you’ll see new meat-snack brands everywhere.”
One notable new brand is Stryve Beef Biltong, a meat snack that is air-dried for up to 21 days before slicing and packaging. This unique curing process and the product’s better-for-you ingredients—it contains 36 grams of protein and 1 gram of sugar per pouch—have placed it among the most innovative jerky brands, Mace said. Produced by Stryve Foods LLC, Plano, Texas, Stryve Beef Biltong comes in sliced Biltong, Biltong Sticks, Biltong Stick Minis and Trail Mix varieties. Flavors include Original, Smoked, Peri Peri, Teriyaki and Zesty Garlic.
“Stryve is disrupting the meat-snack space,” he said. “Meat snacks have been up 5% on a same-store basis over the past six months, and we fully expect Stryve to help this increase well into next fall.”
Spicy flavor profiles continue to be one of the hottest flavor trends in snacks, shifting from salty chips to meat snacks and even dried fruit. One of the most promising new spicy snacks was created from a partnership between two of the biggest brands in fast food and c-store retail: Taco Bell’s Tortilla Chips, which are offered only at 7-Eleven. The c-store chain debuted these chips in May 2018 and sold more than $2 million within seven months, Emily Stegman, senior category manager of snacks for 7-Eleven Inc., Irving, Texas, told CSP Daily News.
“Bold and spicy flavors have been huge in successful products this year,” she said. “Expect more innovation here in 2019.”
Nuts and seeds
Stegman also expects growth in the nuts and seeds category, which fell 0.4% in total c-store sales last year, according to IRI. She believes Love Corn, a new high-fiber, low-sugar, gluten-free roasted corn snack, can boost the struggling category. Love Corn is produced by Love Corn Ltd., a London-based manufacturer, and comes in three flavors: Sea Salt, Smoked BBQ and Habanero Chili. The “upscale corn nut” is skewed toward female millennials, a demographic that c-stores have struggled to target in the past. This provides retailers with an opportunity to intrigue those consumers, she said.
“Love Corn fits in the better-for-you-category and has the core customer that c-stores need,” Stegman said. “It’s a driver for the nuts and seeds category in 2019.”
While salty snacks and jerky have flourished, growth in snack bars has been mixed. C-store unit sales of nutritional/intrinsic health value bars fell more than 4% last year, according to IRI. Stegman said this decline results from retail competitors such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and Bed Bath & Beyond implementing the same shelving strategy for nutrition bars that c-stores have practiced for years.
“[7-Eleven] started with a 6-foot section to stock nutritional bars near entrances years ago,” she said. “In the past year, other retailers who’ve had a 3-foot section have expanded into this format. These stores are eating into [c-stores’] nutritional-bar sales.”
Hope isn’t lost, though—product innovation offers opportunity for growth. One Bar, a gluten-free nutritional bar, was an instant hit after getting onto Dash-In’s shelves last spring, Mace said. The bar quickly became one of the chain’s top three SKUs in the snacking category due to its clean packaging and high-protein, low-sugar benefits, he said. One Bar, which is manufactured by One Brands, Charlotte, N.C., comes in 11 flavors, including Birthday Cake, Blueberry Cobbler, Chocolate Brownie, Cinnamon Roll, Lemon Cake and Salted Caramel.
“One Bar has definitely been the bright spot in the nutritional-bar space over the last six to 12 months,” Mace said. “We plan to keep leveraging One Bar throughout 2019.”