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NATIONAL REPORT — Gone are the days of one-sided snacking. With today’s consumer increasingly in search of bold flavors, simple ingredients and all-around better-for-you sweet and salty treats, companies in the snacking industry need to adapt to stay in consumers' good graces.
Here's a look at what four big names in the snacking industry are doing to evolve with their consumers:
Minneapolis-based General Mills unveiled a bevy of new products that started rolling out in January. The new products, according to the company, are aligned with growing consumer interests.
"Snacking presents a tremendous growth opportunity for General Mills," said Ken Powell, General Mills chairman and chief executive officer. "Our products are in 97 percent of U.S. consumer households and about one-third of our global sales are international. This gives us a great ability to listen and deliver what consumers want. And while preferences are changing faster than ever, what hasn’t changed is the desire for food that tastes great, is convenient, and affordable. Our scale allows us to easily transfer great ideas into great products around the world."
There are three areas in which General Mills seeks to meet consumer interests:
1. Calories That Count
One of the biggest shifts in consumer eating habits has been in the area of weight management.
"Controlling weight used to be about counting calories, now it’s about calories that count," said Jeanine Bassett, vice president of Global Consumer Insights. "Today it’s more about satiety, which is why you see increased interest in protein."
The latest additions to General Mills portfolio that address this demand include: Yoplait Greek 100 yogurt with at least 14 grams of protein per serving; a super-sized version of Nature Valley Sweet & Salty bars; and Fiber One layered chewy bars.
Consumers want to keep it simple, and continue to seek products made with simple, recognizable ingredients and free from things they're looking to avoid, like gluten or artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Consumer demand for transparency has also grown.
"Products like Liberté yogurt provide transparency around the ingredients they use. For example, they aren't just using vanilla beans, but vanilla beans from Indonesia," said Bassett.
Among products addressing simplicity and "free-from" ingredients include: LÄRABAR Fruits + Greens bars; Nature Valley granola cups with no artificial flavors, colors or corn syrup; and newly renovated Progresso soup, now made with only antibiotic and hormone free chicken.
3. Desires to Indulge
Although consumers seek simple, wholesome snacks, they are still making room for indulgent treats.
"Oftentimes consumers talk about eating healthy as a presentation of their best selves and their aspirations, but in reality, they simply want something that tastes good," said Bassett.
Armed with this knowledge, General Mills has introduced new exotic flavors to its ice cream and yogurt brands, like Häagen-Dazs green tea almond stick bars, Yoplait Dippers, and the return of Yoplait Custard.
A full list of new General Mills products can be found here: blog.generalmills.com.
Kellogg Co., headquartered in Battle Creek, Mich., launched more than 50 new products nationwide that are innovative spins on its iconic cereals, new snacks and gourmet frozen food items.
Each new item is created to specifically meet the diverse need of today’s grocery shopper, the company stated.
New product spotlights include Special K Nourish granola, Kellogg's Cinnamon Frosted Flakes, and Pop-Tarts coffee-inspired toaster pastries. Snack highlights center on Cheez-it Duoz Bacon & Cheddar crackers, and five bold flavors of Pringles LOUD crisps.
"We know that people are looking for a variety of things when they choose food for themselves and for their families. They want food that is fun and exciting, wholesome and nutritious, convenient and, of course, delicious," said Paul Norman, president of Kellogg North America. "We are passionate about delivering products that meet a wide range of needs."
Many of the new products are made with flavor and colors from natural sources, like new Kellogg's Disney Princess cereal and snacks including Special K Nourish Bites and Nutri-Grain Bakery Delights crumb cakes. Additionally, the entire lineup of Eggo frozen breakfast products will now be made with flavors and colors from natural sources.
To see a breakdown of new products by category, click here.
MONDELEZ INTERNATIONAL INC.
Mondelēz is unveiling its biggest snacks rollout since its split from Kraft Foods in 2012. The Deerfield, Ill.-based company, which has posted declining sales the past three years, is renovating its portfolio as consumer demand for less-processed snacks continues to rise.
In July, Mondelēz will introduce a new line of crackers and snack bars made without artificial ingredients and GMOs, as well as revamp some of its existing products to better appeal to millennials, reported Bloomberg.
Named "Vea," the product line arrives as traditional packaged-food companies are aiming to gobble up startup brands in response to changing tastes, and after Kraft Heinz Co. made an unsuccessful bid to buy Unilever, the news outlet reported.
Chief Growth Officer Tim Cofer said Mondelēz considered making an acquisition but ultimately decided to develop the new food line itself. "There was nothing out there that hit this space as well as what we developed," he said of Vea, which was developed in-house by a "startup" team.
The entrance of Vea to the market is backed by activist pressure to improve company performance after lagging profit margins. Following Vea's launch in July, the brand is expected to expand to overseas markets, where Mondelēz generates 70 percent, or most of its revenue, according to Bloomberg.
In July 2016 Mondelēz made a bid to acquire The Hershey Co., a move that would have combined the two companies into one powerhouse candy and snacking giant. However, Hershey rejected the bid after seeking counsel and the bid was dropped nearly a month after being made, as CSNews Online previously reported.
The merger approach was seen as a defensive move, so Mondelēz would be less of a takeover target, according to Bloomberg. However, following Unilever’s rejection of Kraft Heinz Co.’s $143-billion takeover bid in February, Mondelēz has been seen as a possible target of Kraft Heinz.
Synder’s-Lance is taking a deeper dive into healthier snacks with an investment in Denver-based Natural Foodworks Group, which manufactures healthier foods and helps its customers bring those products to market.
The size of the investment was not disclosed, reported Charlotte Business Journal.
"We look forward to leveraging their expertise and innovative production capabilities to bring some exciting new items to market,” says Carl Lee Jr., CEO of Charlotte, N.C.-based Snyder’s-Lance.
During the company’s earnings early in February, Lee predicted that the "better-for-you" snack segment of the company will climb 40 percent of company revenues in 2017, up from the current 33 percent. "We’re focused on changing the way the world snacks," he said.