The term ’healthy snacking’ could easily be deemed an oxymoron as snacking for many is a big bag of crisps in front of the telly. But concerns about obesity and fat and sugar content in food have encouraged the big snacks suppliers to come up with healthier alternatives to the fried potato crisp. Pepsico is a case in point. Yes, it gives us the UK’s number one potato crisp in Walkers, but it has also been working hard to come up with more healthier alternatives.

Walkers Sunbites is a good example, containing 67% wholegrain, including whole oats, corn and wheat, which provides more than one third of the suggested daily intake of wholegrain. The snacks have no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives and 30% less fat than regular crisps. Sunbites was launched in 2007 and sales are still going strong. Pepsico reports that volume sales doubled in the past two and a half years. January is a key time for sales with so many consumers starting a New Year with a health drive. Last January saw Sunbites value sales up by 32% in the first two weeks of the month, compared with the same period in 2013 (Nielsen).

A much newer launch from Pepsico was Pops, introduced earlier this year. Using a special high-pressure cooking method that ’pops’ the potato chips rather than fries them, Pops contain 50% less fat than standard crisps.

But Pepsico is not the only company that offers healthier snacks.

Earlier this year Kettle unveiled a range of Baked Chips aimed at health-conscious consumers who are looking for lighter, ’better-for-you’ snacks without compromising on taste. The idea was to create "a truly authentic alternative to other low-calorie snacks on the market, with great taste central to the product". So the Baked Chips are made from real food ingredients, with absolutely no hidden nasties. The range consists of single serve Baked Potato Chips, as well as sharing bags of Baked Sweet Potato Chips.

Containing less than 100 calories per pack and 70% less fat than standard crisps, Kettle Baked Potato Chips are made from potatoes, which have been sliced with the skins on and then oven-baked. There are two variants: sweet chilli and cream cheese & chive.

Meanwhile, Kettle says its Sweet Potato Chips are the first baked sweet potato crisps to be launched in the UK. With 50% less fat than fried vegetable crisps, they come in sweet chilli and lightly salted varieties.

The firm says the new products have received great consumer feedback and, based on early positive sales results, it is now looking to roll out distribution. The Baked Sweet Potato Chips are performing particularly well in forecourts, with the range already in the top 40% of sharing lines in terms of rate of sale (Litmus data).

Nuts are a popular snack but many consumers are concerned about their fat content. Provenance Trading Co reckons it has the solution via its new Olé range of peanut-based snacks made from oleic acid-rich peanuts.

The firm says Olé peanuts are 50% healthier than ordinary peanuts as they have far higher concentrations of monounsaturated fats or good fats. It adds that they are even healthier than olive oil, helping to lower cholesterol, aid weight loss and reduce the risk of strokes and heart disease.

For retailers, there’s good news too as Olé has a shelf life that’s three times longer than ordinary peanuts.

Olé comes in sizes ranging from 60g to 85g, with rrps from £1.39 to £1.59. Varieties include Mediterranean herb & whole cherry tomatoes and lightly roasted with a hint of salt.

Inventive snacks

If you’re looking to add something a little more inventive to your snack range, you should check out Mr Filbert’s Inventive Recipes, which include small bags of nuts and seeds that are ideal for snacking on the go.

Its gourmet roasted pocket snacks, for instance, come in three new flavours: honey & peppercorn, sea salt & herb and chilli & fennel mixed nuts. The 50g grab bags have a rrp of £1.50 each.

Also available are honey roasted, herb roasted and chilli roasted Tasty Seeds in 50g bags, rrp £1.50. Each uses quality ingredients, many of which are locally sourced, to ensure that each packet of mixed seeds, which includes pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and pine kernels, is packed full of flavour. Seeds are popular as a snack because they’re full of protein, fibre, magnesium, vitamin B6, zinc and vitamin E. Adding a few seeds to your daily diet can boost your vitamin and mineral intake and help balance hunger pangs.

Finally, Natural Balance Foods’ Nakd brand has been making great distribution and sales gains in the convenience and forecourt sector.

In the past 52 weeks, the Nakd brand has grown by £7.5m and is now worth £16.2m, with 17% of this growth coming from convenience and forecourts. What is more, the brand has announced further new listings.

Spar is taking Nakd’s ’hero’ flavours, cocoa orange and cocoa delight, while BP has opted for the cocoa orange and cashew cookie products. Nakd bars are made with a wholefood approach, which means there’s minimal processing and no added sugar, syrups or ’mysterious additives’.

Marina Love, marketing director of Natural Balance Foods, comments: "These are exciting wins for Nakd, which will not only please our existing fans, but also give us the opportunity to reach out to new customers that haven’t tried the range before.

"With 52% of adults now purchasing free-from products (Kantar data), only 20% cite intolerance as a motive for purchase with the majority recognising their nutritional benefits and looking for healthier options to enjoy as part of a balanced diet. Our Nakd bars not only tick the healthy box but taste great too so we’re confident they will be well received by consumers."

Snacks for coeliacs

Looking at health rather than ’healthier’, gluten-free food is a growing trend as one in 100 people in the UK and Europe suffer from coeliac disease. Seabrook Crisps has gluten-free accreditation and says it is the only mainstream brand to offer this across its entire range. What is more, the brand has been given the official stamp of approval by Coeliac UK, the national charity for people with coeliac disease, and packs display the Charity’s ’Crossed Grain’ symbol.
Seabrook Crisps marketing director, Kevin Butterworth, says: "Seabrook Crisps has always had gluten-free ingredients but we know that Coeliac UK’s Crossed Grain symbol provides peace of mind to those with coeliac disease and we’re really proud to be able to offer more choice to people who have specific dietary needs, helping them to lead a less restricted lifestyle."
Bobbys Foods too offers gluten-free lines. Chris Smith, marketing executive at the firm, says: "There does seem to be a current and growing trend in gluten-free snacks. According to Coeliac UK, following a gluten free diet is the only treatment for the condition. We want as many people as possible to enjoy our products, which is why we offer a selection of sweets and snacks, such as Beef Grills, BBQ Snack Mix and Mega Sour Pops, as gluten-free options."