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4 snack trends to watch in 2023

Despite food inflation that has plagued the entire economy over the past year, Americans continue to stock up on snacks. Strong sales will likely continue this year as Americans flock to convenient, healthy and indulgent snacks, experts say.

In 2022, snack sales in all outlets climbed 11.7% to $58.7 billion, according to IRI and 210 Analytics. The IRI data encompasses the latest 52 weeks ending Dec. 4.

Out of all snack options, salty snacks drove sales last year, accounting for nearly $35 billion in sales, while meat snacks and jerky sales reached $4.6 billion.

There is “aggressive dollar sales growth as spending on snacks remains resilient,” according to 210 Analytics Principal Anne-Marie Roerink, despite a drop in volume over the past year due to inflation, reductions in supply inputs and a slower return to “normal” social and work activities post-COVID-19.

“Manufacturers and retailers have not been able to promote as much as pre-pandemic, but some are working on offering manageable prices to consumers who are struggling to stay on budget by shrinking the packages,” Roerink said.

Plus, despite the pressure on consumers’ incomes, “we see continued strength in sustainable and health-related innovations, with claims such as high protein, plant-based or gluten free driving growth for the category,” she noted.

The top trends expected to benefit snack growth in 2023 tie in with consumers’ ongoing price concerns as well as their desire for innovation and healthier lifestyles.

A snack aisle

Spencer Platt via Getty Images


Snacking on the go realizes a resurgence

Many consumers have resumed the daily habits and activities they enjoyed before the pandemic, leading to an uptick in demand for on-the-go snacks.

“Most the nations children are back in school, sports and other activities are back in full swing and more and more people are going back to working at the place of business, at least part of the time,” Roerink said. “We see this impact on strength for lunchbox items — small bags — but also in the way people are treating now.”

Many schools now require shareable items to be individually wrapped, which has prompted many shoppers to bypass in-store bakery items like cookies and cakes in favor of items typically found in the snack aisle, Roerink noted.

“During the pandemic, many saw a surge in grocery sales and figuring out how to hold on to those sales will be key to keep up with the pandemic sales patterns,” she said.

Consumers are also increasingly purchasing pre-prepared cold grab-and-go snacks, added Bret Yonke, director of research and insights at foodservice consulting firm Technomic. “Convenience is likely driving this as cold offerings do not have to be eaten right away. This presents a greater window of opportunity in consumersminds when making a purchase (e.g., can save it for later, etc.),” Yonke said.

Snack makers focus on ‘unexpected flavor combinations’

In recent years, the snack industry has been able to spike sales with limited-time flavors and innovative textures and designs. While new product launches took a back seat at the start of the pandemic, they were back in full force last year.

PepsiCo’s Lay’s brand, for example, has been very progressive with new flavors, including Wavy Carnitas Street Tacos Chips — one of three flavors launched in October to celebrate the World Cup. 

New snack flavors include Korean, Indian and Mexican influences, along with a wider variety of ingredients, such as sweet potatoes, mushroom jerky, taro bites, freeze dried mango, and legumes as the base for chips, Roerink noted. Unusual new snacks include potato chips with dried beef “chips” from Carnisnacks, and Mascot’s Sweet Georgia Heat Pecans.

For 2023, Roerink predicts “really fun flavors coming out. Spicy continues to be hot, but more than anything just unexpected flavor combinations.” Manufacturers will also launch more limited-time flavors in order to prompt impulse purchases and optimize category engagement, she said.

In addition, plant-based and health-focused snack foods will continue to be an area of focus for new snacks, Roerink predicted.

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