Similarly, Chicago-based Simple Squares (www.simplesquares.com) offers the combo of savory and sweet in a crispy snack that's an "all natural nut and honey confection infused with vanilla and herbs" such as rosemary and sage. But they're without wheat, gluten, dairy, soy or refined sugars. "Because we use raw, unfired fare, the Squares' power-packed nutrients are never compromised," says Chief Square (owner) Kimberly Crupi-Dobbins.
Savory Snack Leaders: Corn and beans
Corn chips, of course, are one of the leading savory snacks. But only recently did products start to really use them as a springboard for an unlimited variety of flavors.
Food Should Taste Good (www.foodshouldtastegood.com) was founded by Pete Lescoe in 2006 with the goal of providing consumers a greater range of choices in all-natural corn tortilla chips, chips made with without trans fats, cholesterol, artificial ingredients or GMOs. Food Should Taste Good chips are available in such diverse flavors as Multigrain, Sweet Potato, Lime, Olive, Chocolate, Blue Corn and Jalapeño among others. All flavors are certified gluten free, kosher, low in sodium and high in fiber. Many varieties are certified vegan.
They may not be a Superbowl party favorite yet, but, as the package says, Beanitos are corn-free, gluten-free, non-GMO and have protein, fiber and a low glycemic load.
Similarly, flours from beans, peas and chick peas are finding a place in savory snacks manufacturing. With a profile high in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, beans and peas translate well to savory.
"Pulse flours and pea fiber are not just for people who have celiac disease, gluten intolerance or a wheat allergy — everyone can benefit from these nutrient-dense flours," says Margaret Hughes, communications director for Best Cooking Pulses Inc. (www.bestcookingpulses.com), Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. She notes these ingredients easily can be added to traditional formulations to give them a nutritional boost.
However, beans present their own sets of challenges when it comes to creating chips. "Our product exists because I was looking for a low glycemic index food and thought, why not beans?" says Dave Foreman, co-founder and president of Austin, Texas-based Bean Brand Foods (www.beanitos.com). Dave's Brother Doug had developed the Guiltless Gourmet brand of chips, so the know-how to produce healthy baked snacks was a given. "We couldn't just create them in the kitchen," says Foreman. So they partnered with a plant in Austin to work out the details of mass production of the unusual product.
Going beyond the trans fat-free label, Beanitos provide a complete protein. "As it turns out, it's necessary to include brown rice in the dough formula to make the chip work, and that simultaneously provides the necessary amino acids to complement the beans," explains Foreman. The dough also contains a variety of "inclusions" to further enhance the quality of the finished product. These include "ancient" grains, herbs, or flax seed, which provides a source of omega-3 fatty acids.
The final product is baked and quickly flash-fried to give a familiar crunch. Beanitos' other calling card is that they are certified non-GMO.
And lets not forget roots. While veggie chips have been enjoying some success on the fringe, they still occupy a position on the "alternative" aisle. WaiLanas Gluten-Free Yogi Snacks (www.wailana.com) are trying to change that with yucca root chips designed to directly compete with potato chips. They offer a gluten-free, wheat-free and soy-free snack option with 40 percent less fat than a regular potato chip. Ingredients are non-GMO and contain no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives in fun flavors like Pizza, Herb & Garlic, Barbecue and French Onion.
Salt to taste
Israeli ingredient firm LycoRed recently developed Sante, a tomato concentrate with all of the umami flavor characteristics from the tomato, but without the tomato taste. Sante can be used to enhance the flavor and reduce the amount of salt added to a product.
Although recognition of the actual science is finally beginning to catch up with the decades of misleading information about salt, demand for low-sodium formulations remains high, driving ingredient providers to come up with innovative solutions.
"Depending on the salty snack, we find our product can reduce sodium by 25 to 50," says Thomas Yezzi, founder of Nu-Tek Products (www.nu-tekproducts.com), Minnetonka, Minn. Nu-Tek provides reduced sodium sea salt as an allergen-free, natural product that contains no artificial flavors and enhancers and can be used as a 1:1 replacement for regular salt in virtually any application.
"Technical challenges include flavor, intensity, functionality and shelf-life," continues Yezzi. "The developer must find a satisfactory solution for his application. It's important to choose an ingredient that meets these criteria. We have definitely seen an increase in sample requests for salty snack applications. When a company such as Walmart announces goals to reduce sodium by 25 percent across all product lines, food processors do take notice."