You just have to look at the success of online firm Graze, whose sales have doubled, to recognise the demand for healthy snacks. The company now delivers more than 300,000 Graze healthy snack boxes a week direct to consumers’ homes.
And even in the US, the land of the mega-sized bags of crisps, things are changing. Convenience store chain 7-Eleven has a new snack section where shoppers can buy veggie chips and dry roasted edamame.
Here, a recent Mintel report found that nearly half (45%) of crisp consumers are concerned about how healthy crisps are, which helps to explain the 3% volume decline in potato crisps sales from 2011-12. However, Mintel states that the number of new products featuring a low/no or reduced fat claim reached a four-year high in 2012.
But these low/no and reduced fat claims were found more in the wheat and other grain-based snacks sector rather than in potato snack products.
Nuts and seeds are deemed to be healthier than crisps, with one in three (34%) consumers of nuts and salty snacks eating nuts and seeds as a healthy alternative to salty snacks; this rises to 40% of over-55s (Mintel).
And despite the rash of popcorn launches, only one in four consumers agree that savoury popcorn is healthier than crisps.
Walkers has been enjoying success with its lower-fat snacks, particularly as lunchbox items. It latest launch is of Mighty Lights, which are crunchy ridged crisps with 30% less fat than standard potato crisps.
Meanwhile, Walkers Baked Stars were launched in 2012 in three flavours: mild sweet chilli; cheese & onion and salt & vinegar. The snacks were enjoyed by 3.7m households in less than 12 months and so earlier this year were joined by a new original flavour the most requested flavour by parents. They contain 70% less fat than standard Walkers crisps.
And Walkers Hoops and Crosses were launched in the spring: with no artificial colours or preservatives, 30% less fat and as a source of wholegrain.
Ryvita, well known for its crispbreads, is tapping into the strong growth potential of healthy bagged snacks in the savoury biscuits aisle with the launch of two new bite-sized lines: Ryvita Thins Bites.
Available in two flavours: sweet chilli and Cheddar & cracked black pepper, the bites are a smaller version of Ryvita Thins. They are baked not fried and are a good source of fibre. The sweet chilli variety has 80 calories, while the cheese and pepper one has 89 calories.
Carol Flint, head of marketing, innovation, research and development at Ryvita, comments: "Our priority is to bring taste, versatility and excitement to consumers via innovative NPD and range expansion. Healthy bagged snacks have never been more popular and with our existing range of Ryvita Thins already on shelf and contributing 19% of growth in the savoury biscuits sector, we have the perfect platform to bring an exciting new snack to the market. Its introduction will drive choice and opportunity for consumers shopping the aisle in search of exciting snacking solutions."
There’s more change in the savoury biscuit aisle as Ritz has undergone a reduction in salt and also benefits from new-look packaging.
The amount of salt in Ritz original has been reduced from 3.28g per 100g to 1.38g per 100g, with Ritz cheese and Mini Ritz also set to benefit from salt reductions over the next few months.
The whole range will also be getting a fresh new look to help it stand out more on shelf.
Ritz brand manager, Alastair Pilgrim, says: "We’ve managed to significantly reduce the salt content of Ritz Original and the rest of the range without losing the great taste, and the new packs have great shelf appeal."
English crisp brand Tyrrells recently expanded its range of premium snacks with the launch of new Apple Crisps. Made from the whole apple, the crisps are thinly sliced and delicately cooked to create a "sweet yet crisp" eating experience. There are two varieties: proudly plain and smashingly cinnamony, which come in 30g packs, with each bag containing only 2% of your daily saturated fat allowance.
Sticking with fruit, and Whitworths has launched Morning Munch a handy 70g portion of dried fruit and nuts that is intended to help maintain energy levels and minimise mid-morning snacking moments, keeping consumers satisfied through to lunch.
Taking flavour inspiration from classic breakfast favourites such as smoothies and pastries, Whitworths has created six combinations: strawberry & banana, cherries & berries, maple pecan, cinnamon & apple, honey nuts and red berry crunch.
For smaller appetites, Whitworths Shots provide a 25g mix of fruit, nuts and seeds to give consumers an instant energy boost. There are four flavour combinations: blueberry & seed; berry & almond; apricot & seed; and raisin & chocolate.
Easy-tear packaging emphasises the product’s on-the-go convenience and makes them a great, healthier impulse buy. There are less than 100 calories in each portion.
Ocean Spray is also livening up the dried fruit category with the introduction of Craisins dried cranberries infused with pomegranate juice, which come in a 150g re-sealable pack.
Finally, one of the biggest success stories in healthy snacks is, of course, the yogurt.
Müller Dairy marketing director, Michael Inpong, says: "We know that consumers want to feel good by eating delicious products to support a healthy lifestyle, but we also recognise that while consumers have one eye on eating more healthily, enjoyment and practicality remain more important to them than the health attributes of food.
"The key to making the most of this sector undoubtedly lies in helping consumers to make healthier choices by offering flavours and pack formats that fit with their lifestyles."
Worth almost £50m (Nielsen), Müller Rice is the second biggest brand in the desserts category. The dairy rice provides the goodness of milk but is low in fat.
The brand recently received a boost via new packaging and the addition of more fruit to several of the recipes. The aim was to make Muller Rice more appealing to all consumers but to men in particular. "We have turned our Rice range around through investment in product quality and new packaging, and we are starting to see some excellent signs of positive sales momentum. Rice had a very strong month in September at 9.6% of value share of desserts (Nielsen). This compares to 8.8% in the past 12 months."
Following on from a range-wide packaging revamp earlier in the year, the two core Müllerlight flavours strawberry and toffee received a makeover courtesy of acclaimed British designer Giles Deacon.
Nielsen data shows that Müllerlight continues to grow its share of the yogurt market with an increase in volume sales of over 10% in the past 12 months.
In addition to the core range, there is now the Mullerlight Desserts range comprising indulgent chocolate- and fudge-based flavours all at 99 calories.
Inpong says: "Desserts have a huge potential for growth in the chilled yogurt and pot desserts market. Consumers continue to demand indulgent flavours, creamy textures and treat appeal, but without the guilt factor."
British consumers are eating, on average, two snacks or treats every day, with one quarter of adults eating three or more.
Consumers who eat four or more snacks are significantly more likely to be between the ages of 25 and 44.
On average, three out of four UK consumers (75%) are ’very likely’ to swap their regular snacks and treats for healthier options. In particular, 92% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 70% of people over 45-years-old would be willing to swap for healthier snacks.
Taste is the most important quality to consider when changing snacking habits (94%), followed by health (75%).
Yogurt is the only popular snack food considered both delicious and healthy by British consumers.
UK consumers indicated that they would be willing to replace, on average, one of their daily snacks or treats with yogurt.
Source: The Yogurt Council