According to Nielsen State of the Nation 2015 data, ’better for you’ is now a significant category within snacking, with 60% of consumers actively looking for healthy options when they’re shopping and 46% of UK households having bought healthier crisps and snacks in the past year.

The big snack suppliers have been keen to balance their ranges, offering consumers healthier alternatives. PepsiCo has enjoyed great success with its wholegrain Sunbites range, with Kantar Worldpanel stats revealing that each year the product is consumed by 4.2 million people in the UK. Earlier this year the range was boosted by the launch of Sunbites Crackers and Dips packs as well as oven-baked Crispy Crackers and Pitta Bakes. With foodie-inspired flavours such as Sun Ripened Sweet Chilli and Vintage Cheddar with Caramelised Onion, Pepsico says the products meet consumer demand for more impactful tastes but with 30% less fat than regular crisps.

Fat content, of course, is a key measure of a healthier snack. Kettle’s Baked Chips, for instance, have 70% less fat than standard crisps and come in at less than 100 calories per pack.

In a Mintel survey, sweet potato came out top as an alternative ingredient to potato-based snacks, and Kettle has this covered with its Sweet Potato Chips. The company says they are the first baked sweet potato crisps launched in the UK. Again they are lower in fat, containing 50% less fat than fried vegetable crisps.

Popping up

One of the biggest changes in the snacks market has been the explosion of popcorn as many consumers perceive it to be healthier than crisps. Obviously not all popcorn is that healthy especially if it’s covered in toffee or chocolate but one company that does make healthier popcorn is Mecalfe’s Skinny.

The brand is the brainchild of Julian Metcalfe, co-founder of Pret A Manger and itsu. Back in 2009 he was so fed up with the snacks that were on offer that he decided to create something that was lighter yet still tasty to replace the bog standard crisp. Today his popcorn is available in a whole host of flavours including honey bee, sea salt, cinnamon sweet and wasabi glaze.

The popcorn has been recently joined by Popcorn Crisps, which are gluten free and have up to 35% less fat than the average tortilla chip. They are created through a flash-griddled process. The kernels, oil and salt are dropped into triangular-shaped moulds, and with the right pressure, temperature and moisture they pop to become a Popcorn Crisp. Flavours include Kettle Original; Sweet Chilli; and Say Cheese, which the company says has all the indulgence of rich Cheddar cheese and paprika but with only 37 calories per serving making it a great healthier alternative to traditional crisps. They all come in 30g bags, rrp £1.

But it’s not just fat that people want to cut back on. Mintel reports that 17% of snack eaters say they have reduced the amount of sweet snacks they eat since all the negative headlines about sugar.

However, Marina Love, marketing director at Natural Balance Foods, says it’s important to bear in mind that while consumers are increasingly health-conscious, they are still tempted by ’treats’.

"This means that retailers should aim to strike a balance between better-for-you products and indulgence. Nakd bars and Nibbles are bite-sized impulse snacks that do just that. Both are a blend of pure fruit and nuts with no added sugar, gluten, wheat or dairy making them taste great and a healthier option."

According to Nielsen stats, the brand is doing phenomenally well. In the 52 weeks to May of this year, it saw 75% year-on-year growth, is now worth £25m and is out-performing the total ’healthier biscuits’ category, which is declining by 0.9%.

Love reckons the brand’s growth is driven by existing ’healthier biscuits’ category shoppers turning to Nakd, as well as new consumers to the category, who are buying Nakd instead of other confectionery. She continues: "Sixty nine per cent of category shoppers now add Nakd to their baskets, while Nakd has attracted £2.3m in sales that used to go to rival brands. We believe that if it wasn’t for Nakd those sales would have left the category entirely. Nakd brand penetration now stands at 5.4% compared to 2.1% in 2012 and it continues to grow (Nielsen data)."

Nakd bars were joined earlier this year by the aforementioned Nakd Nibbles to take the brand into new snacking occasions. They are available in popular flavours such as Salted Caramel, Mint Humbug and Strawberries & Cream.

A new trend

Finally, a new trend to look out for is freeze-dried fruit and vegetable snacks. One product that’s available is Nothing But, so-called because the snacks comprise absolutely nothing but the fruit or vegetable listed on the packet no added salt, fat, sugar, colours or preservatives.

So Nothing But is just fruit or veg with the water taken out sealed in a bag to retain shelf life and freshness. And this process means that 90% of the nutrients are retained.

There are six varieties but the brand’s marketing manager, David Street, says the top sellers are Sliced Beetroot & Parsnip, Strawberry & Banana and Pineapple & Grape. Each pack counts as one of a consumer’s five a day. Rrp is £1.25.

Street says consumer response to the range so far has been fantastic.

The products are well worth a try they do taste good plus they have a 12-month shelf life from manufacture so you have plenty of time to sell them.

Ones to watch out for...

Earlier this year, online subscription snack brand Graze moved into retail. Twelve sweet and savoury snack punnets were launched into Sainsbury’s, Boots and WH Smith Travel. The firm has yet to say how well the introduction has gone but initial trials of nine products in Boots delivered the highest rate of sale across the store’s total snack business. The range that’s available in retail at the moment includes Lemon Drizzle Flapjack, Punchy Protein Nuts and Thai Sweet Chilli Dippers. These really are great products so let’s hope they will be making their way into other retail outlets in 2016.
The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses and will be actively promoting pulses as a primary source of protein and other essential nutrients. Tying in with this, snack company Dilly & Wolfe has just launched a new pulse-based Roasters range with two varieties exclusive to M&S and three more available to indies. The three are all Roasted Peas, Beans & Seeds in Coconut & Chilli; Soy & Ginger Roasted; and Sweet & Salty flavours. Rrp is £1.50.
RM Curtis has a Snacking Essentials Shot Pack range of dried fruits, nuts and seeds, where each 25g pack contains around 100 calories. There are four varieties: pomegranate promise; fruit & nut fusion; choccy orange cheer; and sinless seeds. Rrp is 59p.
Yumsh Snacks has expanded its range to include two new flavours of hand-cooked crisps (Pastrami in the Rye and When the Pepper Crack’d) and two new varieties of premium popcorn (Lucia Popperley’s Cappuccino and Cousin Penelope’s Strawberry & Cream). The crisps are available in 40g bags (rrp from 69p) and 135g bags (from £1.89), while the popcorn comes in 28g bags (from 69p).