When talking about consumer food trends, catchphrases such as “fresh,” “convenient” and “high in protein” tend to come up frequently, and there is no better place for shoppers to find snacks that cover all of these attributes than the refrigerated case.
Denise Purcell, director of content for the Specialty Food Association, New York, says it best: “Refrigerated is big. Whether it’s meat or cheese or yogurt, there’s the protein and the portability of snack and go. It’s all helping out the refrigerated snack category.”
In general, consumers have become more mindful about snacking but also more experimental, says Jim Low, EVP of sales and marketing for Fairfield, N.J.-based Schuman Cheese. “They’re more eager to explore new flavors and new products, and especially when it comes to millennials, they’re not afraid to spend a little extra for a true culinary experience,” he says.
As such, Purcell urges grocers to call attention to aspects such as better-for-you benefits and convenience when showcasing specialty snacks to help justify the price difference and highlight the quality that comes with the price point.
To be sure, cheese is at the forefront of growth in refrigerated snacks and is the No. 1 selling category in specialty, Purcell says, although she says it is a “mature category,” with much of the growth appearing in new innovations.
In addition to treating items such as portable cheese products as snacks, consumers are also finding creative ways to incorporate them into other eating occasions, says Jamie Wichlacz, marketing manager and PR director for Green Bay, Wis.-based BelGioioso Cheese. He says he has heard from consumers that they like to pack fresh mozzarella snacking cheese with their lunch to create a fresh Caprese salad on the spot.
With snackable foods poised to proliferate in the refrigerated case, WGB breaks down some of the hottest micro trends in the category that should be on grocers’ radar.
Combo Snack Packs
With protein continuing to be a top consumer snack choice, packs that include several different munchable items are a perfect fit. Snack packs that offer combinations such as cured meat and cheese alongside crackers, fruit and chicken or nuts and hard-boiled eggs have become the elevated Lunchables of today, appealing to adults and children alike.
Move over, seaweed: Kelp is climbing its way into the limelight as sea vegetable-based snacks continue to gain favor due to their high nutritional content and almost nonexistent calorie count. While seaweed and kelp are generally found in a dried form on grocery shelves, kelp is now entering the refrigerated case in noodles, pickles and even salsa.
Pickled and Brined to Go
Consumers who love to snack on items such as pickles and olives have recently been gifted with packaging that allows a single-serving nosh. Now instead of wrapping a dripping pickle in tinfoil to put in their lunchbox or bringing an entire jar of olives to work, consumers can grab a conveniently packaged lunch-sized portion and be on their way.
Specialty Yogurt and Cottage Cheese
Greek yogurt was all the rage a few years ago, but new items such as Icelandic, French and oat milk-based varieties are starting to gain on their predecessor. Surprisingly, according to Purcell, cottage cheese is regaining its popularity; milk quality has been the major focus of the category, with innovations such as new flavors and mix-ins yet to hit the market.
With convenience at the forefront of importance when it comes to snacks, manufacturers have been getting creative with packaging that takes the stress and the mess out of an on-the-go bite. For example, chips and dips such as guacamole and hummus can be found packaged side by side, and resealable kid-friendly items such as applesauce and yogurt are a favorite of busy parents.
The phenomenon of the Impossible Burger is reaching the snack case, and in this day and age, almost any product can be made plant-based. With items such as rice protein-based cheese that tastes like a high-quality Italian variety and vegan tuna that can be spread on crackers, the snacking world has indeed become a better place for those who wish to avoid animal-based products.