SANTA MONICA, CALIF. — Plant-based jerky, zero-sugar candy and high-protein cookies are growing segments as shoppers seek snacks that balance health and taste, according to analysts at SPINS LLC, a data technology firm.
“The last of the junk food categories are going better-for-you and natural,” said Scott Dicker, senior market insights analyst at SPINS, during a Dec. 2 presentation at NOSH Live, a two-day conference produced by media company BevNET.com, Inc., in Santa Monica.
Added protein and reduced sugar are top attributes propelling demand of naturally positioned offerings, which continue driving growth across brick-and-mortar retail channels even as inflationary pressures push shoppers to lower-priced private label assortments. Mr. Dicker described a shift in consumer perceptions of products promoting wellness that favors the presence of functional benefits over the absence of unhealthful ingredients, per International Food Information Council survey results.
Sales of chips, pretzels and snacks formulated with 15 to 20 grams of protein grew 64% in the 52 weeks ended Oct. 30, while sales of cookies and snack bars featuring 20 to 25 grams of protein grew 1,727%, according to SPINS.
“A cookie that used to be considered junk food, add protein to it, and now it’s a health food,” Mr. Dicker said.
Meanwhile, he noted, “people are avoiding sugar really at all costs.” Sales of cookies, bars and candy sweetened with allulose and monk fruit increased 86% and 51%, respectively. Such products containing sugar alcohols such as erythritol and artificial sweeteners including aspartame and sucralose also are experiencing double-digit growth.
As consumers adopt personalized approaches to nutrition, products marketed as grain-free, keto and paleo are seeing gains as well.
“Consumers really care about what they put into their bodies,” said Caroline Davidson, senior director of strategic partnerships at SPINS, approximating “over 30 million people in the US are following some kind of diet at any time.”
Sustainability also is top of mind for many shoppers, giving rise to the upcycled foods movement, Mr. Dicker said, noting emerging and established brands alike are identifying opportunities to reduce waste across the supply chain.
Social media is influencing buying behaviors, too, he said, pointing to a viral video that boosted sales of a specialty condiment brand by 78% in a single week.
“Disruption can happen very fast,” Ms. Davidson said. “Trends can be a week long. They can happen overnight. And I think it’s really important that you’re making sure that your strategies are in line with being able to pivot quickly.”