Snack Makers Take A Fresh Look At Healthful Fare

By David Pierson
Los Angeles Times.

SAN FRANCISCO

The next generation of food manufacturers are clamoring to satisfy your snack cravings. Just don’t expect another potato chip or pretzel.

At the annual Fancy Food Show in San Francisco last week, up-and-coming brands touted seaweed chips, toasted coconut shavings, kale crackers, Wagyu beef jerky and baked pasta bites.

Among them could be the next Super Bowl party staple. Today’s emphasis, however, is on guilt-free snacking, the holy grail of nosh.

Manufacturers are banking on more healthful products, lower in fat, sugar and salt, but packing the same addictive punch as a can of Pringles chips.

“Even though they’re much healthier snacks, I’m hoping people don’t stop at one,” said Jerry Bello, maker of Pasta Chips, a ravioli-shaped crispy bite dusted with Italian seasonings.

The surge in snack options comes as Americans have transformed into a nation of grazers. The number of snacks consumed per day has doubled since the 1970s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.

Over 90 percent of Americans say they nibble daily, amounting to a $28 billion annual industry for salty snacks alone, according to Nielsen.

Young consumers are driving the change. Rather than partaking in breakfast, lunch and dinner, they’re grubbing around the clock.

“Millennials are redefining snacks,” said Dwight Richmond, Whole Foods Market’s global purchasing coordinator. He and about 50 colleagues from the Austin-based grocery chain perused the latest offerings at the closely followed trade show, a sort of incubator and marketplace for food brands that aren’t quite mainstream and are typically found in higher-end stores.

“Instead of eating three square meals, they’re juicing and snacking,” said Richmond, who believes the shift away from junk food will grow as more consumers seek out simple, minimally processed fare.

Wendy Meraz, a 26-year-old college student, said she picks up healthful munchies from Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s to avoid snacking on processed junk food when attending classes.

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