Consumer Attitudes Show Positive Change About Healthy Snacking

If chips can include a full serving of vegetables, snacking can be a healthy part of your diet.

By Rory Gillespie, Contributing Editor

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Snacking used to be viewed as a weakness. That's not true anymore.

Grabbing some grub between meal times was something for the weak, who couldn't wait for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Or, it was a guilty pleasure, an indulgence. When your world finally quieted down, you owed yourself a treat.

Today, many consumers are eating smaller main meals and ascribing to the five meals-a-day plan where snacks are planned into a person's daily nutrition requirements.

This has created a whole new attitude toward snack foods, that they can be healthy parts of a daily diet. That includes what used to be called salty snacks, now better referred to as savory snacks – you know, chips and crackers. Snack makers are happy to embrace this new paradigm. But they must heed the emphasis on health. And there are two main approaches to health in the world of snack chips: putting healthy ingredients in and taking unhealthy ingredients out.

Vegetables (and even some fruits) are among the positive ingredients being worked into snack chips in new ways. And while it's hard to find a snack with trans fats anymore, sodium reduction leads the "out" list and remains a work in progress for many processors – but a battle for which there are new weapons.

One out of every five eating occasions is a snack, according to the NPD Group's "Snacking in America" report. Putting it another way, as "meal occasions," snacks are within a couple percentage points of breakfast, dinner and lunch (in that order; see table). The NPD report also breaks snack eating occasions into mid-morning, mid-afternoon and evening snacks – occasions that food processors may want to target. NPD also found people with the healthiest overall diets snack the most; those with the least healthy diets snack least.

Food makers ranging from the giants to the boutiques are jumping into the forefront and are not letting the three main meals keep them in the background anymore.

Snack on your vegetables

Food processors are creating snacks from raw materials seemingly unheard of in years gone by, such as beans and fruits. Simply 7 Snacks is one of those companies. As the name implies, it was founded on seven principles for healthier snacking: 1. Zero trans fat and cholesterol; 2. No artificial colors or flavors, 3. No additives or preservatives, 4. Gluten-free ingredients, 5. All-natural recipes, 6. Simple ingredients and 7. Simply delicious.

What it does have are chips made out of pomegranate (with potato starch), hummus (technically chickpea flour) and lentils.

"Our new flavors are Lentil Jalapeno and Hummus Roasted Red Pepper," says Paul Albrecht, vice president. "We have always wanted to release a Roasted Red Pepper Hummus Chip and a spicy Lentil Chip, but wanted to wait to make sure we got the flavors exactly right. We are especially excited about these new flavors because of growing interest in spicy snacks and the fact that Roasted Red Pepper is the most popular flavored hummus on the market."

The pomegranate has the halo of a "superfruit" and continues to have consumer interest. Simply 7's line of pomegranate chips have the sweetness and health of the fruit, marketing materials say, along with natural spices and seasoning. There are even special times of year to keep an eye out for special editions.

"We have a Seasonal Flavor that is only going to be available for Christmas, Valentine's Day and Mother's Day which is Pomegranate Dark Chocolate," Albrecht adds. "We have watched the growing pomegranate trend with great interest, and realized we were in the perfect position to do something with pomegranates that no one else has done. Simply7 is committed to bringing new and unique items into the snack aisle, and we think our Pomegranate Chips offer consumers an exciting version of a food."

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