Snackin’ in the sun

As days grow longer consumers begin to look for convenient, fresh snack ideas.

Everyone loves a good snack.

In Grocery Headquarters’ State of the Industry Almanac, published in the April issue, snack categories such as crackers, snack nuts, potato and tortilla chips all enjoyed sales growth. Recent rwatermelonesearch further shows that consumers are eating fewer meals, yet snacking more than ever.

Along with the traditional snacking options, many fruit and vegetable categories, including the convenience and value-added segments, also saw growth. According to the NPD Group, fresh fruit is the most consumed—and fastest growing—snack food in the U.S. Consumers are seekingå out more nutritional options in light of a growing awareness of health matters, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

“It is a combination of a growing national health consciousness, which extends to the White House, and widespread support at both the brand and retailer levels,” says Bil Goldfield, communications manager for Dole Fresh Fruit, based in Westlake Village, Calif.

With summer on the doorstep, snacking will take on an entirely new meaning. Kids are home from school and work schedules change resulting in adults and kids grabbing snacks at all hours of the day to munch on at home or take with them on the road for outdoor fun. Blame it on the sun or a more active lifestyle, but consumers’ priorities for snacks shift in the summer, say observers; they want “portable,” “convenient” and “healthy” to accommodate spontaneous and on-the-go summertime activities.

Retailers can help consumers stay on track by using these key words and creating multiple, accessible “snacking destinations” in the grocery store, says Tristan Simpson, director of marketing and corporate communications for Irwindale, Calif.-based Ready Pac Foods. “Our ready-to-eat snacks sell best where they draw the most attention. This means grab-and-go style coolers near the front of the store with a robust assortment to satisfy both sweet and savory snack cravings without the guilt of calorie-packed fast foods.”

Growers also want to see more cross merchandising across different supermarket departments. Well-Pict Berries recommends placing berries in non-traditional places, such as next to vinaigrettes for salads and alongside pre-cooked proteins to add as an ingredient to an entrée. “The berry crop is prolific this spring and summer,” says Dan Crowley, sales manager for the Watsonville, Calif.-based grower. Keeping berry displays front and center with these types of meal solutions will help drive sales for berries, as well as filling the cart with other healthy options.”

Knowing what consumers want is key to successfully selling them fresh snacks, say observers. Here are a few marketing trends that producers and other industry influencers are using to get consumers’ attention that can be used in-store.

1. Give it a new spin
“Adventurous” is how many industry observers are describing consumers’ eating habits as of late. Give them a creative new idea and they will dive in, they say.

One company embracing this trend is Wholly Guacamole. To entice consumers to expand their guacamole usage, Fresherized Foods, the Saginaw, Texas-based parent company of the brand, is turning to the grill. Throughout May and June, Wholly is working with retailers to market guacamole as a condiment as part of its Grill Month campaign.

Tracey Altman, vice president of marketing, says people usually see Wholly Guacamole as a dip. “We are trying to send the message, ‘Guacamole is great on burgers and chicken sandwiches so it should be right there next to the mustard, the ketchup and the mayo.”

By expanding on its use, consumers have more incentive to make the purchase; and once it is in the house, Wholly officials know it will be snacked on. Altman herself uses it as a dip for pretzels or bacon and adds it into turkey and cheese roll-ups for kids. “It is about taking something kids and parents already like and putting a new spin on it,” she says. Retailers can get recipe and promotional ideas for Wholly from its Pinterest and Instagram pages.

Dole Fresh Fruits is another brand that has put a new spin on what was once a traditional fruit—the banana. For the past few years the grower has been promoting bananas for every time of day and reason other than breakfast—eating bananas after dark, cooking bananas on the grill, making frozen dessert with bananas to replace ice cream and, most recently, promoting the fun and universal love for bananas on a national road trip, Pe44309-12-DOLE-1630-SummerPoster_FINAL-REV-020813el the Love Summer Truck Tour.

With each campaign the fun changes, but the underlying message remains the same: Bananas are healthy, say Dole officials. “What you eat in between meals is as important as your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dole and others are leading the charge by incorporating this healthy-snacking message into their advertising, communications and social media. It is the simple, but often overlooked idea that eating fruits and vegetables can be delicious, nutritious and fun at the same time,” says Dole’s Goldfield.

Dole officials say that summer is a target time for the marketing the banana, dubbed last year by the company as Nature’s Original Energy Bar. This marketing initiative, which challenged active, health-seeking consumers to see the banana as a summer alternative to sports drinks, will continue to be featured throughout the truck tour.

2. Suggest sweets
A sweet tooth can be a dangerous thing. Often when the craving hits it is chocolate, cookies or candy that come to mind. However, fruit can do the trick as well. Retailers who market fresh and dried fruit as an alternative to less healthful options could win a sweet-toothed consumer’s loyalty.

This is one angle the Bard Valley Date Growers Association is taking in its marketing approach. Medjool Dates are a naturally sweet alternative to sugar, say officials from the Bard Valley, Calif.-based organization. As Bard Valley works toward widening the culinary focus of Medjool Dates, it is seeing an increase in the consumption of Medjools as a snack.

In response, Bard Valley is expanding its offerings with several new products under the Natural Delights brand that “target the snack lover with healthy, grab-and-go convenience,” says David Anderson, marketing director. These include easy-to-grab handheld items like Date Rolls, Snack Packs and Pitted Date products.

“Medjool Dates are not only a naturally sweet alternative to sugar, they provide ‘good carbs’ and rate low/medium on the Glycemic Index (GI). A diet rich in low-GI promotes stable blood sugar, healthy body weight and sustained energy without the crash associated with snack bars and processed foods,” Anderson adds.

Many dried and fresh fruits fit the “sweet”—and convenient—bill. Take berries and cherries for example; they are very easy “rinse-and-go” items, says Suzanne Wolter, director of marketing for the Rainier Fruit Co., based in Selah, Wash., adding that consumers are attracted to berries for the convenience as well as their “superfood” qualities. “Apples, blueberries and cherries have all been on ‘superfood’ lists. Retailers should use this in their communications with consumers in print ads, at point-of-sale and on the website or other social media outreach efforts,” she says.

These fresh fruits also support the all-natural trend retailers are seeing. Processed or artificial ingredients and flavorings, are becoming things of the past, say observers. “Families are focusing their efforts more toward healthier lifestyles and eating habits,” says Dionysios Christou, vice president of marketing at Del Monte Fresh Produce, based in Coral Gables, Fla. “Del Monte aims to satisfy that need with its ready-to-eat healthy snacks that include premium quality bananas, grapes, deciduous fruit, carrots with low-fat dressing, fruit parfaits, apple slices with low-fat caramel and a multitude of fresh-cut fruit and vegetable medleys. They are a great way to refresh and boost energy levels for families who are active during the summer months.”

3. Catering to kids
For kids, summertime means vacation. No more school, no more homework, no more rules, is the mindset. That makes keeping them on a healthy eating schedule even more difficult. Kids will reach for whatever snacks are in the house, say observers, so giving parents lots of healthy, easy and tasty snack options is key.

What do kids want? According to Grimmway Farms officials, they want to dip. “To make fresh fruits and vegetables more appealing to kids, pair it with a flavored dip,” says Bob Borda, vice president of marketing for the Bakersfield, Calif.-based company. “Kids love the interaction of dipping their favorite fruits and vegetables into sauces that create a new eating experience.” Grimmway’s Carrot Dippers deliver baby carrots with a ranch dip packet for kids to dip themselves.

Some companies are expanding on the snack kit idea to include not only fresh fruits or vegetables, but also a protein and a carb. “A healthier alternative to the ever-popular Lunchables concept has even made it into the produce department,” says Borda. “We are experiencing a greater variety of healthy snacks that incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the category.”

It is never too early to instill these habits in kids either. Observers say introducing fresh fruits and vegetables to children at an early age will develop and encourage long-term habits. “There are ways to make eating fruits and vegetables fun for kids, such as involving them in kid-friendly recipes and offering them variety,” says Del Monte’s Christou.

Possibly the most quintessential summertime fruit, watermelon is popular with kids and goes a long way beyond picnics and barbecues. A whole watermelon can be used in a variety of ways, say representatives for the National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB), based in Orlando, Fla. “You can make quick simple snacks such as slices, watermelon lollipops or watermelon dippers, or you can get more creative and make salsa, agua fresca or create a new one,” says Juliemar Rosado, marketing and communications associate for the NWPB.

An advantage to marketing watermelon at retail is the lack of branding. This allows retailers the ability to cross-promote it with a range of products. Most of the NWPB’s recipes use several ingredients so it is simple to cross-promote while also featuring watermelon’s versatility and how well it lends itself to any flavor, Rosado adds.

4. Offering balance
Snacks are becoming a “meal” for many consumers, say observers. Mixing nuts, cheese and other proteins alongside fresh fruit can help create a more balanced “meal.”

“Snacking is becoming a more accepted cultural trend, with more than half of all eating occasions now occurring between meals,” says Jay Allison, vice president of sales and marketing for Tillamook, Ore.-based Tillamook County Creamery Association. “More importantly, between meal snacking is taking on the halo of a healthy food occasion.

Consumers believe that eating smaller meals more frequently is healthier, and snacking bridges gaps between meals during hectic summer schedules.” Tillamook offers individually wrapped snack-size cheese slices—Tilla-moos—as an ideal complement for fresh fruit.

Officials at Blue Diamond Growers agree. The Sacramento, Calif.-based company is invigorating its line of almonds with unique consumer-appealing flavors, such as coffee and fruit, to appeal to the snacking community. The fruit-flavored oven roasted almonds, captioned “the sweet taste sensation” by the company, come in three varieties—Blueberry, Raspberry and Strawberry—while the Coffee Almonds come in Roasted Coffee, Mocha and Caramel Macchiato.




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