Innovation hits the snack business

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Innovation hits the snack business

By Michael Johnsen - 11/15/2017

Borrowing a well-known phrase from Mark Twain, the rumors of the death of the snack market are greatly exaggerated. 


In fact, a number of industry officials stress that many consumers — while looking for healthier lifestyles and cleaner, ethically sourced ingredients — still want their favorite pretzels, popcorn or potato chips, though maybe with a little less fat and calories.


“How consumers view snacking has shifted dramatically over the past several years. They are just eating differently,” said Edward Taylor, vice president multichannel at Mars Wrigley Confectionery. “Millennials talk openly about how meals have become snacks, snacks have become meals. The value of food has changed — it’s all along a spectrum of well-being as consumers balance their ‘credit debit’ eating — making choices across indulgent and permissible options.”


Drawing from the company’s recently generated Confectionery Path to Purchase research, Mars officials noted that consumers seek snacks to treat themselves. “It’s clear we need to deliver our products in a variety of flavors and sizing options to meet the different needs of busy, on-the-go consumers,” Taylor said. 


Some of Mars’ latest snacking innovations include six new flavors of goodnessKNOWS snack bars, as well as a new M&M’s Snack Mix and Combos Honey Sriracha. 


“We’re also spicing things up within confections with the introduction of Skittles and Starburst Sweet Heat and new Snickers Hunger Bars, featuring such intense flavors as Espresso, Fiery and Salty & Sweet,”  Taylor added. 


In the past quarter, Hershey expanded its initial Snack Mix and Snack Bites products with the launch of Hershey’s and Reese’s Popped Snack Mix and Chocolate Dipped Pretzels, primarily in large format take-home bags. “Net sales growth is ahead of plan, and consumer reaction is positive when our brands are merchandised in the snacks aisle,” Michele Buck, Hershey CEO, told investors in October. 


 Hershey also recently introduced Hershey’s Gold, its fourth flavor. Hershey’s Gold features a rich cream that delivers a buttery-sweet flavor. Its caramelized cream also includes a combination of salty crunchy bits of peanuts and pretzels that deliver a creamy, crunchy experience. “The instant consumable pack type will begin to ship to only a few select customers in Q4, but you’ll see it in stores more broadly in January, as merchandising and program will be tied with the Winter Olympics, which begins Feb. 9,” Buck said. 


To help make the category easier to shop, suppliers in the space are repackaging their snack offerings in stand-up pouches, which help the product stand out at shelf. “The transition from lay-down bags to stand-up pouches on our core chocolate packaged candy products is progressing,” Buck said. “This initiative enables product to get on the shelf quicker, with less in-store labor, and it improves shopability in the aisle.”


Tiffany Menyhart, vice president-U.S. category leadership at Mars Wrigley Confectionery, said the company is partnering with retailers to develop conversion tactics on shelves through changes to current shelves, including flow, adjacency and the stand-up pouches. “With 70% of impulse purchases being driven by visibility or an in-moment craving, it’s critical retailers make it easy for shoppers to find products that meet these needs in the moment,” Menyhart said.