A Trail of Sales

Retailers, suppliers seeing increased success with snack, trail mixes
M&M's snack mix
M&M’s Brand Snack Mix

Pairing chocolate candy with nutritious ingredients such as nuts and raisins “is pretty much a win-win” in today’s snacking marketplace, says Melissa Abbott of The Hartman Group, Bellevue, Wash. Consumers are increasingly looking for the trifecta of health, convenience and satiation all in one snack, she says, and manufacturers are responding with a broader range of snack and trail mixes.

“No matter how healthy you eat, there’s nothing quite like an M&M,” she says. “But something we hear from consumers from all across the country is, ‘If I’m going to eat something that has sugar in it, I really want to make sure it has a high-quality fat or some protein to keep me from crashing,’ ” says Abbott, the company’s senior director of culinary insights.

Convenience stores sold $150.5 million in nutritional snacks and trail mixes last year, a figure that represents a 21% increase in dollar sales and 13.7% surge in volume, according to data from Chicago-based IRI.

Mintel forecasts that the North American market for nuts, dried fruits and snack mixes will continue to grow over the next five years, from $7.2 billion in 2012 to about $9.2 billion by 2017.

Trail mix holds the smallest portion of sales in the salty-snacks segment, but it’s showing the greatest growth, says Cassandra Matos, Temple, Texas-based McLane Co.’s category manager for confections and, previously, snacks. For most retailers, the mixes have a 40% retail profit margin. “We’re seeing tremendous growth in nuts, trail mixes and seeds across the category,” she says. “Snacking is becoming more of a meal occasion than it used to be.”

Americans are snacking more than ever before—two to three times a day, Matos says. And they’re looking for healthier solutions—items that are high in protein and antioxidants—that can tide them over between meals.

“Because the instance of meal consumption is not considered as important as it once was, and more importance is being placed on snacks, a lot more attention is being paid to the type of snack and the ingredients being consumed,” Abbott says. “It’s not just about a treat anymore. It’s literally a stepping stone through the day.”

And while snackers may be looking for nutrition, they’re also falling for the allure of sweeter snack mixes. With their ability to be sugary and savory, nutty and chocolaty, indulgent but still nutritious, snack and trail mixes make the case that they offer everything a snacker might desire.

Following are some recent rollouts in the sweet-and-salty, healthy-yet-indulgent, convenient and satiating snack-mix category.

Mars Chocolate North America jumped into the snack aisle with M&M’s Brand Snack Mix. The three flavors are M&M’s Milk Chocolate Candies Snack Mix, which mix M&M’s candies with mini chocolate chip cookies, peanuts and pretzel twists; M&M’s Dark Chocolate Candies Snack Mix, with dark chocolate M&M’s, raisins, almonds and pretzel twists; and M&M’s Peanut Chocolate Candies Snack Mix, with peanut chocolate candies, shortbread cookies, almonds and pretzel twists.

A new line of gluten-free nut and fruit blends is available from Sahale Snacks in a convenient 1.5-ounce grab-and-go package ideal for away-from-home snacking. The single-serve pouches are available in four flavor combinations: California Almonds + Sea Salt, Classic Fruit + Nut Blend, Almonds with Cranberries, Honey + Sea Salt, and Cashews with Pomegranate + Vanilla.

This year, seed purveyor David rolled out three flavors of trail mix and three varieties of flavored almonds: Dark Chocolate, Wasabi & Soy and Roasted & Salted.

Valued Naturals’c-store program provides retailers with a wide selection of snack mixes, nuts and dried fruits in convenient packaging. One hundred percent vertical sourcing and packaging ensures fresh products, strong pricing and appealing merchandising. The company manufactures its own farmers’ market-style racks, and will tailor the offering to the specific retailer.

A new stand-up, resealable bag better showcases Tropical Foods’ snack mixes and provides a more user-friendly packaging option. Flavors include a variety of bold, sweet and savory mixes, including Sienna Cream Crunch, PB&J Mix, Sweet Heat and Cajun Harvest. Mango Tango blends savory and sweet, highlighted by coconut peanuts and sweet chili lime noodles. All four flavors of the company’s Buffalo Nuts line are also available in new packaging.

Click here for an extended report on trail and snack mixes from the May issue of CSP magazine.