Snack Attack

snack tray on wooden board
Carol M. Bareuther

Sell deli snacks as profitable basket builders.

Snacking, or eating small portions between meals, is an act as old as mankind. The Greeks noshed on dried fruits and nuts. The Romans added olives to that mix, and the Egyptians popped figs and pomegranates in their mouths when they felt peckish. Fast forward to the U.S., historians say popcorn was part of the first Thanksgiving feast in the 1600s. Peanuts were introduced in the 1700s, as were pretzels and the know-how to make them. Potato chips were invented in the mid-1800s. However, it wasn’t until the mid-1900s that Americans became regular snackers, and manufacturers met this need to feed with a multitude of sweet and salty snacks.

Today, nearly half (49%) of U.S. consumers snack three-plus times daily, according to the April 11, 2023-released report, The Snacking Supernova: How to win in the 2023 Snacking Universe, by Chicago-headquartered market research firm, Circana. Age-wise, the largest snackers are 25- to 34-year-olds (68%), and the smallest are those aged 65-plus (24%).

“Snacking has exploded in the last decade, but it took a different form during the pandemic when consumers were stuck at home,” says David Walsh, vice president of membership and communications for SNAC International, an Arlington, VA-headquartered trade association. “People were snacking for a source of cheap, fun entertainment as well as an emotional outlet during tough times. As we move past the pandemic, pre-COVID trends are returning that include more on-the-go eating occasions and using snacks as meal replacement.”

The deli and prepared foods department have the potential to become the go-to source for feel-good foods and snacks that meet the needs of consumers, says Matthew Bernat, regional business manager for 505 Southwestern, in Albuquerque, NM, part of the Flagship Food Group LLC, which manufactures and markets guacamole under the Yucatan, as well as Cabo Fresh, brands. “Shoppers are increasingly going to the deli in search of fresh, healthy snack options.”


Nowadays, there are now two prominent snack categories: ‘traditional snacks’ and ‘better-for-you’, says Rachel Rogers, senior director of shopper insights and category strategy for Campbell Snacks, a division of the Campbell Soup Co., based in Camden, NJ. “The ‘better-for-you’ category has specifically impacted the deli and prepared foods space, as snacks found in this department are considered by consumers to be their ‘healthier’ and more ‘premium’ option.

Drilling down, the ‘better-for-you’, ‘healthier’ and ‘premium’ themes line up with three key points in what consumers want in snacks today. This translates to ideas of what could be the bestselling deli snacks to stock.

First, 83% of consumers want snacks that have the flavor they prefer, and bold flavors are snacking fan favorites, according to the Snacking Supernova report. One example is Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps, a Campbell’s Snacks brand.

“Consumers are also looking to be inspired by new and different products that are premium, fun, surprising and deliver high-quality taste and ingredients. Currently, we have nine varieties of Snack Factory products available in the deli and prepared foods space, including our Garlic Parmesan, Buffalo Wing and Original flavors,” says Rogers.

In April, Snack it Forward’s PeaTos brand of crunchy chips and curls introduced two new varieties: Crunchy Fiery Lime Puffs and Crunchy Cheese-less Puffs. Made with pea fiber rather than corn, the snacks offer twice the protein and three times the fiber of traditional salty snack counterparts.

“Healthy snacks often struggle because they don’t taste that good. When it comes to deli snacks that people often consume with their sandwiches or fried chicken, they want flavor,” says Nick Desai, CEO of the Los Angles-based company and founder of PeaTos.

Secondly, 66% of consumers snack to fuel their day, and look for satiety in many forms and flavors, based on Snacking Supernova research. Healthy deli dips, like hummus and guacamole, hit this high note.

“A snack is no longer a thoughtless bite between meals. Consumers look for foods that they crave, leaving them satisfied and feeling good about what they just enjoyed. Hummus is a great fit,” says Lauren Fuller, director of brand communications for the Sabra Dipping Co., LLC, in White Plains, NY. “Our top sellers are the everybody pleasers like Classic, Roasted Red Pepper and Pine Nut, but Spicy is also popular. People are looking for bold, delicious flavor combos, so spicy with creamy hits the snack spot for many.  Of course, with everyone on the go again, Snackers and Singles are in heavy demand for busy families.”

Consumers are increasingly going to the deli in search of fresh, healthy snack options such as guacamole, adds 505 Southwestern’s Bernat. “Yucatan’s best-selling items in the deli are its 16-ounce Guacamole Tubs. Tubs come in flavors such as Authentic, Mild, Restaurant Style and Lime Jalapeno. The brand will have a fresh and chunky product coming out soon.”

Bernat adds that the best way to promote guacamole is in multiples, either in the store print ad for one week or two to three weeks with a price reduction tag in store. This enables consumers to try multiple flavors at a value, he says.

Third and finally, 54% of consumers say snacks are an important part of their healthy eating plan throughout the day, i.e., providing functional benefits, based on data in the Snacking Supernova report.

“A major trend in snacking is permissible indulgence, where shoppers look for foods that stand out in flavor but also provide a functional benefit like high protein,” says Deanna Depke, marketing manager for Volpi Foods, in St. Louis. In this regard, “Our Roltini Singles are must-have snack items for the deli. Available in both individual sticks as well as multi-unit pouches, these small charcuterie snacks act as transitional items, driving trial of charcuterie products by traditionally non-deli shoppers.”

The eight-item line features meat and cheese combinations that include pepperoni, prosciutto, salami and chorizo with mozzarella and Oaxaca cheeses.

“Our newest snack is a line of Salami Stix that will launch in August,” Depke adds. “These snacks provide retailers with the ability to flex merchandise throughout the deli department and appeal to shoppers seeking high protein, portable snacks.”

Fiorucci Foods, based in Colonial Heights, VA, and part of the Sigma Foods brands portfolio, continues to expand its single-serve, on-the-go snacking portfolio this year with its new Pepperoni & Aged Cheddar Protein Snack Packs; new dry-cured, all-natural Stickados line with Prosciutto Salami, Pepperoni and Salami flavors; and 100% Natural Paninos line.

“These products are fueled by the continued and expected long-term growth of consumption moments like functional snacking,” says Shawn Munck, director of marketing for European brands and foodservice USA at Sigma, regionally headquartered in Phoenix. “A great way to introduce these offerings include digital or in-store shopper marketing loyalty programs and on-pack coupons.”


Seventy-one percent of consumers don’t plan when they will eat snacks. Instead, they just grab what’s convenient, according to Snacking Supernova research.

“A vast majority of deli snacks are impulse sales and for immediate or quick consumption, so they need to be single-serve or smaller packs,” says Snack it Forward’s Desai. “All of our SKUs are sold in self-merchandising caddies, so they are easy to merchandise anywhere. They can also be placed on a rack.”

Cross merchandising is an ideal way to increase snack sales, basket size and register rings.

“Our snacking items have proven to be incremental purchases, adding dollars to each basket. Our studies show that they are found in-cart with prepared salads, flavored waters and natural energy drinks,” says Volpi’s Depke.

Promote snacking every day and all year.

“Lean into snack time,” suggests Sabra’s Fuller. “That every afternoon snack is a huge opportunity.

Most people snack in the afternoon (66%) and the least in the early morning (29%), while both morning and late evening see the biggest growth, based on the Snacking Supernova report.

Back-to-school time, sporting events, holidays, graduation parties, beach and picnic season and beyond are big snacking occasions, adds Campbell’s Rogers. “We time our marketing campaigns to meet consumer needs, such as a charcuterie holiday campaign or our year-round sports drives that feature our many products housed in innovative football and basketball-themed displays.”

Looking ahead, says SNAC International’s Walsh, “There are endless trends and consumer preferences to stay on top of, so retailers need to make sure their snacking product diversification is appropriate for the type of store(s) they own and where they are located. Most importantly, they need to offer a mix of functional, better-for-you and traditional snacks so they have something that can appeal to anyone: dieters, on-the-go meal replacers, adventure seekers and, of course, indulgers.”


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