Salty Snacks

December 22, 2010
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Try to picture a weekend gathering of friends and family or a quiet evening curled up with a favorite movie or book without one of the great American pastimes: enjoying salty snacks. Whether made from corn, potatoes or rice, foods in this category have seen a xx percent rise in dollar sales to $xx, according to an April 2010 Mintel Research International, Inc. report.




Salty Snacks

  By Delia Flores
Try to picture a weekend gathering of friends and family or a quiet evening curled up with a favorite movie or book without one of the great American pastimes: enjoying salty snacks. Whether made from corn, potatoes or rice, foods in this category have seen a xx percent rise in dollar sales to $xx, according to an
 
April 2010 Mintel Research International, Inc. report.
Worries over the weak economic recovery have certainly nibbled away at many household discretionary budgets.
 
Eating out has given way to more family-focused, home-based gatherings stocked with affordable indulgences, including private label salty snacks. But even as Americans hunker down in the family room and kitchen rather than the Cineplex or a fancy restaurant, we’re not ready to give up on taste and quality – and the smart private label retailer and manufacturer know this.
“Despite the economy and consumer caution, the salty snacks category continues to grow and I believe that as consumers stay at home they are more discriminating. Our growth has been incredible, we’ve grown by leaps and bounds and we’ve added additional capacity and manufacturing capability,” says Jeff
Binczyk, vice president of marketing for Shearer’s Foods, Inc., based in Brewster, Ohio.
 
The maker of private label snacks is the nation’s largest manufacturer of private label kettle potato chips.
Binczyk attributes the company’s success to remaining nimble in the face of changing consumer tastes and attitudes towards health and fitness.
 
Curbing childhood obesity is now a priority from the First Lady down to local school boards. It’s no secret that children consume a large amount of snacks – and that busy and budget conscious parents and schools supply them. Binczyk sees the snack food category continuing to expand into the better-for-you products “that still allow people to snack but address specific health concerns.”
For example, the company’s RiceWorks brown rice crisps and Tango Tortilla Chips are popular with consumers who need gluten-free foods.
Shearer’s fastest growing product is its reduced fat Kettle Cooked potato chips. “When consumers hear ‘reduced fat, low sodium and natural’ they expect to open up a bag and see sawdust,” Binczyk says. It’s imperative that retailers ensure that better-for-you private label products, and salty snacks, in particular, simply taste terrific. Consumers shouldn’t have to trade taste for health benefits, Binczyk says.
 
In Shearer’s view, “sustainability is not just being kinder to the earth but it’s how we treat ourselves through exercise and food. It’s about wellness,” he says. He admits that some people just don’t get the company’s wellness mindset. “We say ‘these chips are delicious but make sure you do some exercise and eat them in moderation’ and folks say, ‘You’re telling your consumer to not eat as much of your product?!’” 
There is no contradiction here, just a clear mission, Binczyk says. “We have an obligation to wellness. We have plenty of opportunity to grow our business without people stuffing their faces. We’re committed to moderation,” he says.
Sweet Chili
So how do retailers get consumers to try not only the newest better-for-you private label salty snack but new flavors, too?
 
By sampling.
“Leading-edge retailers are the ones offering samples of the private label products along with price promotions,” he says. “Successful retailers view private label products as part of their brand and engage with customers to develop a relationship like branded folks do,” he explains. And one thing he says he’s sure of, “if quality is high, consumers will come back.”
New, cutting-edge flavors (like tangos margarita lime or blue corn with sesame seeds tortilla chips) as well as enhanced favorites are part of that high rate of return, he notes. Improved technology is accommodating consumers who seek “seasonings and flavors that are new and different or seasonings and flavor that they’re accustomed to but with a more compelling taste” he says.
Another great draw for retailers is the improved packaging for private label salty snacks. “In the past, the private label bags screamed low price and not that great a quality. Today we see a trend towards bolder graphics so the food almost jumps off the package and really creates the identity for the product,” Binczyk says.
 
It’s important for private label retailers and manufacturers to keep the consumer in their sights. Consumers can be very fickle and their loyalty is often a fragile thing, he says. Daily, renewed focus on consumer behavior is “an effort to stay one step ahead and meet their needs with things they want and things they didn’t even know they wanted,” he says.

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