Consumers increasingly prefer healthier options

Healthy snacks had tremendous growth in 2013. Consumers consistently show a willingness to choose healthier options in the snack aisle, and retailers have responded by including even more healthy options on their store shelves. “A full 48% of consumers said they are willing to pay more for healthier options. That’s an increase of 11 points over the number who said that last year,” said Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive and practice leader of client insights at IRI.

“Across consumables categories, 62% of healthy snack categories grew in volume in 2013,” Wyatt said. Consumers aren’t just saying they want healthier snacks; their purchasing habits are proof of their commitment to better-for-you snacking.

Retailers are making sure that consumers find what they are seeking on their shelves: 60% of consumers say that healthy snacks are easy to find — an 11-point gain versus 2012, according to IRI data. Products that once were found only at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods are finding their way to drug store shelves, and drug retailers are increasing their organic, natural and gluten-free sections.

Carob/yogurt-coated snacks volume sales were up 26% across all outlets last year, according to IRI. Nutritional snack mixes also had significant growth.

Yogurt, fueled by Greek yogurt, is still the category star. “Yogurt continues to have great sales, with a 3.5% overall volume increase last year,” Wyatt said. “Yogurt delivers multiple benefits because it’s convenient, better-for-you and has a good satiety profile.” Greek yogurt also has contributed to strong dollar sales in the category; dollar sales of yogurt were ahead nearly 30% in drug stores for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 26, according to Wyatt.

“We’re also seeing a huge growth in yogurt drinks and refrigerated smoothies,” Wyatt said. “They are drinkable ways to get nutrition.”

Nutrition is the buzzword behind increased sales of “snack packs” that combine protein (hard-boiled egg, cheese or preserved meats) with other elements (crackers, hummus or carrot sticks) in one convenient package. Wyatt said that while it was too early to tell how significant a category those options from Go Picnic, Hormel and Oscar Meyer will be, she said the segment was “definitely intriguing, since those products are providing variety and delivering against consumer needs.”

A “fruit and vegetable remodel” is driving sales of squeezable fruit, dried fruit snacks and specialty chips. Consumers, challenged with getting enough servings of fruit and vegetables, are open to new ways to get their “five a day.” Squeezable fruit packs are not just for kids anymore; the category saw a dollar sales increase of 74% across all outlets last year.

“We’re seeing a huge increase in snack packs of fresh produce from manufacturers and retailers, but we’re also seeing tremendous growth in squeezable fruit and an explosion of specialty chips, such as kale chips or apple chips, in crazy flavors like chili lime,” Wyatt said. Specialty chips sales were up nearly 18% across all outlets last year.

There’s also been significant growth in the snack bar category led by Kind Healthy Snacks. “They revolutionized the snack bar category,” Wyatt said. “The bars have simple ingredients and are wrapped in clear packaging so consumers can see what they are getting.”

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