Echoing a trend from this year’s Natural Products Expo West, healthy snacking was on everyone’s minds at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show, which took place June 28-30 at the Jacob Javits Center in NYC.
However, the big question was, what exactly to consumers consider “healthy” when it comes to snacking?
“Healthy” has historically been measured in terms of what ingredients are NOT included in a product. Labels such as low-fat, low-carb, gluten-free, vegan, have become so ubiquitous as to be virtually invisible. But over the last few years, Smith Brothers has seen the rise of the “food enthusiast” consumer segment, who are less concerned with label reading, and more interested in a unique snacking experience (while still making sure to eat a well-balanced diet). Ultra high-quality and/or unique ingredient stories are burgeoning and the Fancy Food Show showcased these in spades.
We didn’t see near the amount of gluten-free or sprouted grain products as we did at Expo East. However, that’s not to say they weren’t on hand though, as LivingIntentions Sprouted trail mixes delighted while products like Hi I’m Skinny Quinoa Sticks, Maya Kaimal Naan chips and Rhythm Broccoli Bites directly challenged the snack category’s historical reliance on corn.
The Fancy Food Show has its roots in gourmet, and “gourmet” will always lead to more indulgent products. However, the indulgent snacks that broke through in 2015 had a story behind their ingredients – one that promised consumers a unique “experience”. Brands like Smari Icelandic Yogurt, and both Duke’s and Chef’s Cut jerky brands told a sourcing story – either via geography, or farming. Taza Chocolate told a traditional stone-ground preparation story. And products like We Grow Water WTRMLN WTR and Drink Maple maple water (yes, water from maple trees) told a story with a unique ingredient twist.
A manufacturer I spoke with quipped, “35 years ago, [The Fancy Food Show] was all chocolate, olive oil and jams… now look at it!” To that end, some other interesting snacking trends spotted this year include functional beverages, hemp ingredients, jerky, snack (not “meal-replacement”) bars, yogurt and gelatto and pre-packaged baked indulgences like brownies, cookies and cupcakes.
So what exactly are we anticipating for this next year? Call it more of the same. Because real snacking innovation continues to come from smaller manufacturers and start-ups, their products are still mostly available at specialty outlets. It will be fascinating to watch what innovations, or most-likely, acquisitions, the national CPG manufacturers make over the next few years to help bring these products to the masses.
At Smith Brothers, we love seeing the “Little Guys” drive excitement and real change in the better for you snacking category. We’ve got our fingers crossed that this trend continues to see nothing but–excuse the pun—healthy growth.