Bet You Can’t Eat Just One

Strength of snacking stems from salty category, with better-for-you and boldly flavored snacks boosting growth

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- Americans can’t get enough salty snacks. According to the recently released Packaged Facts report, “Salty Snacks in the U.S.,” more than 90% of U.S. households purchased and ate a salty snack in the past 30 days.

Obviously a boon for the convenience-store industry, the study from the Rockville, Md.-based market research firm finds that snack marketers are taking advantage of the products’ popularity, with a wider array of innovative, delicious and even healthy salty snacks entering the marketplace. There are 50 million consumers who snack between meals and who, according to the report, say that “salted snacks are my favorite snack.”

And c-stores, as well as suppliers marketing to c-stores, are taking note.

As sited in the study, Dallas-based 7-Eleven Inc., introduced a new line of upscale snack offerings in September. The company released its new line of the private label 7-Select brand of bulk-type gourmet, organic and better-for-you snacks, as well as an expanded offering of other national, high-quality salty snacks more normally found in gourmet and organic grocery stores.

On the supplier side, Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., recently released a new set of displays that are designed to showcase its salty snack products and encourage more impulse purchasing of those products in the c-store setting. The displays are flexible and can be used as floor stands, power wings or counter displays. This new merchandising treatment was designed for Pringles (Super Stack and Grab & Go) and Cheez-It product lines.

The report covers trends that are expected to “generate challenges and opportunities for marketers of salty snacks.” The category, once dominated by corn and potato products, for example, now includes a variety of vegetables and legumes.

Currently, potato chips are eaten by 85% of American households.  Corn/tortilla chips/cheese snacks rank next in popularity (72% of households), followed by popcorn products (71%) and pretzels (55%).

Suppliers and retailers should think quickly in terms of the changing tastes of today’s salty snackers. According to the report, it’s “no longer enough for salty snacks marketers to roll out products with a single flavor, no matter how robust or exotic. Dedicated snackers are seeking out surprises in the form of unexpected combinations of flavors.”

Further driving the success of snack foods are the strides marketers have made in developing healthier salty snack foods that still taste good, states the report. As a result, there subset of 14 million “healthy” salty snackers who exercise often, seek out better-for-you foods of all kinds, and do not see a conflict between craving salty snacks and pursing a healthy snacking diet.

According to Packaged Facts research director David Sprinkle, part of salty snacks’ metamorphosis into “better-for-you” products has been a change in product labeling that mirrors that for other better-for-you positioned foods such as fruit- and nut-based snacks. Salty snacks now often call out attributes such as “non-GMO,” “vegan,” or “organic.” They also often are labeled more subjectively as being “local,” “pure,” “real,” “natural,” “safe,” “clean,” “minimally processed” and “allergy-friendly.”

Packaged Facts projects that a number of factors will converge to generate faster growth for the salty snacks market during the upcoming 2014-2018 period.  Marketers will continue to add more healthy-ingredient products to the salty snack segment to meet demand, including offerings from niche entrepreneurial companies that focus on bringing innovative health-ingredient salty snacks to consumers.

Packaged Facts has been a publisher of market research in the food, beverage, consumer packaged goods, and demographic sectors for 50 years. For more information on Salty Snacks in the U.S., please visit or