Snacks Are the New Meals

Healthy, quality snacks are a major draw in today’s supermarket delis.

Bob Johnson

Snacks are becoming the new meals as consumers look to eat in convenient smaller quantities rather than sit down together for more extended mealtime gatherings with family, friends or co-workers.

And producers expect consumers venturing from the center of the store back to the deli, as COVID fears calm at least a bit, will be drawn to more interesting and healthier snacks like crackers named after the Italian for “crunchy little bite,” Keto Bites, brioche bagels and gluten- free doughnuts

“I think the key for the deli sector is about providing the experience—rather than just the function,” says Paul Baker, founder of St Pierre Groupe and international director for the St Pierre Bakery brand, Manchester, UK. “That’s the beauty of the deli—for shoppers, it’s emotional more than practical, and that’s why it carries such great opportunities for retailers.”

Consumers traditionally shop in both the grocery and deli sections of the store, and they are looking for adventure and quality in their snacks.

“Attitudes towards food are changing; as new audiences try new flavors, there’s also likely to be a shift in attitudes towards whether a functional food can be decadent at the same time. And that’s particularly true when it comes to snacking,” Baker says. “Increasingly, there are more products that might once have been considered more ‘luxurious’ or ‘decadent’ appearing in the convenience sector. Consumers will no longer accept that the two are mutually exclusive. We’re a generation of shoppers who know what we want and then want it immediately. There’s no reason to compromise quality for convenience or vice versa anymore.”

A Nation of Snackers

According to Food Insight’s 2021 Food & Health Survey the share of consumers who report replacing meals with snacks has grown to nearly 40%, and a little more than one in four of us snack several times a day.

“Snacks are clearly the new meals … and demand for healthy on-the-go options has put dairy in a good position to capitalize on these changing consumer behaviors,” the Madison, WI-based International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA)reported in What’s In Store 2021.

The snack category is projected to grow at a robust 5.14% through 2025 but not all snacks are equal.

Salty snacks, for example, declined 12% by volume from early May to late August 2020, according to Chicago-based IRI’s statistics, because as consumers replace meals with snacks, they are looking for healthier options

“We are working on some Keto items,” says Aaron Chua, manager of Bakery Street, San Leandro, CA. “We’ve been selling them through Costco, and it’s to the point we can offer seasonal flavors; like maple is our fall flavor.”

Bakery Street offers cakes for weddings, birthdays, baby showers and other celebrations, almond, chocolate chip, butter, double chocolate fudge and other traditional cookie as well as a line of specialty cookies including biscotti, madeleines, apricot and lemon shortbread and palmiers, among others.

But alongside these delightful indulgences, this nearly half-century old San Francisco Bay Area baker has most recently had success with its line of Keto Bites, catering to consumers drawn to the high fat, low carbohydrate and adequate protein diet.

Bakery Street started its Keto Bites line with almond and later added brownie, cinnamon pecan and blueberry, in addition to the seasonal specialty flavors.

The almond bites that launched the Keto line have 4g of fiber, 5g of carbohydrates and 5g of protein in a snack size serving along with no cholesterol and very little sugar.

For Chua, the development of Keto diet snacks is personal as he looked to adopt healthier eating habits himself.

“It’s been a bit of a health focus for me,” he says. “It worked out that’s where the trend is going.”

More producers are coming to recognize the importance of this emerging trend of healthier snacks.

Since Abraham Ogan started BakenJoy in New England 80 years ago, the company has developed a familiar line of muffins, loaf cakes and sliced pound cakes displayed in supermarket bakeries next to the deli.

But today the company also offers gluten-free doughnuts in apple cider, devil’s food and old-fashioned flavors.

Only 19% of consumers try to include protein in their snacks, according to a 2021 International Food Information Council survey reported in What’s In Store, which may be far below the 56% of us who try to include protein in lunches but is still three times as many as the consumers who look for protein in deserts or treats.

Adventure, Quality and Decadence

Consumers returning to the deli are not looking for the same packaged snacks they found in grocery these last months, and the Millennials setting the trends are not looking for their parents’ snacks.

“Millennials are more exploratory in their tastes and account for a huge proportion of the consumer food market,” says Baker. “The idea that certain flavors or foods are ‘not for me’ is fading—new flavors are easier to try, and consumers are driving the demand for weird, wonderful and whimsical combinations. The ‘foodie elitism’ that we might have encountered a few years back is no longer a factor.”

St Pierre Bakery is the number one brioche brand in the U.S., and offers a line of authentic French bakery bread products,

The brand has benefitted from this expanding market for fine flavors, as more consumers are drawn to brioche, including brioche snack products, and most recently expanded its product line by offering the first-ever brioche bagels.

“Brioche is now widely recognized as a way to elevate everyday meals—recreating restaurant quality at home,” says Baker. “We are the number one brioche brand in America and have grown 63% each year. Our snacking and sweet treat range has been key to this growth—offering products that are more instantly recognizable than traditional brioche products. As a concept, a snacking waffle, pastry or croissant is much more accessible as a ‘gateway’ to the St Pierre brand. Our range of merchandising options offer a way for delis to interrupt the shopper mission and bring footfall into the fixture.”

The IDDBA reported this spring that celebratory products are not slowing as specialty desserts in perimeter are growing by almost 30% year on year.

This increase in specialty deserts is part of a larger trend of consumers seeing food as one area they are willing to spend more.

“Forty percent of U.S. shoppers are spending more on their regular food than pre-pandemic, and 48% have actively looked to recreate restaurant dishes at home,” says Baker. “With consumers looking to try something new and willing to put their hands in their pockets for quality that transports them to a favorite restaurant, or overseas holiday, retailers have a unique opportunity.”

La Panzanella Artisanal Foods Co., Tukwila, WA, began two decades ago with a trademark cracker they named Croccantini, which is Italian for “crunchy little bite.”

Today, the company, still family-owned, offers its crunchy little bites in classic, seasonal, sweet and gluten free, and provides a pairing guide on the web site.

If the number of consumers returning to the deli and looking for unique quality snacks continues to increase, placement of the products will be important.

Chua from Bakery Street believes the company’s Keto Bites are best displayed with either similar products or with likely companions.

“It goes next to other cookies or madeleines,” he says, “and we’re seeing it go with coffee.”

St Pierre has the advantage of familiar packaging consumers are accustomed to seeing in the bakery are next to the deli.

“We are a branded, but quality product sitting in the grocery deli, offering new ways for consumers to experience great bakery,” says Baker.

The look and color of the displays complement the familiar location to catch consumers’ attention.

“Our branding, with the flash of orange and where we sit in-store has always been a point of difference for us,’ Baker says. “Our packaging is designed to highlight our authenticity as a quality French product, and our packaging currently does that, with nods to Paris. Our new look helps to dial up our French heritage, provide even greater on-shelf stand-out and cements our position as a category leader.” DB


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