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Choice is important when snacking is a way of life, says SFA CEO

By Kacey Culliney+

12-Dec-2013

'Consumer choice is important, particularly as American consumer tastes transform,' says Snack Food Association CEO
'Consumer choice is important, particularly as American consumer tastes transform,' says Snack Food Association CEO

A broad and mixed range of healthy and traditional snacks is important as snacking becomes a way of life for Americans, the CEO of the Snack Food Association (SFA) says.

Chief executive officer Tom Dempsey said that while there has been a flurry of better-for-you snacks launched in 2013 across the US, the traditional potato chips, tortilla chips and pretzels still remain top-sellers.

“Rice snacks are making an impact, popped items and energy bars are also new entries. But as snacking, in effect, almost becomes a way of life for Americans, you need to have a choice for different consumers,” Dempsey told BakeryandSnacks.com.

While healthier snack alternatives are mounting, he said the products are “certainly not displacing the traditional products”.

“The consumer choice is important, particularly as American consumer tastes transform,” he said.

The snack food sector is not a static category, it’s extremely dynamic, he added. “There are changing consumer tastes and preferences amd on-going new product development (NPD) and new innovations are all designed to meet consumer demand.”

Ensuring the PR doesn’t get ahead of industry…

Dempsey said that tackling public health issues around snacks remains at the forefront of efforts for industry and the SFA.

“The issue of nutrition and obesity and how our industry addresses that remains important, so we don’t allow the PR gain to get ahead of us,” he said.

“Almost all of our manufacturers [SFA members] have launched better-for-you products this year. We’re not trailing behind, but really leading ahead.”

James McCarthy, ex-CEO of the SFA, previously told this site that industry does take obesity seriously . “We want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem,” he said.

Involvement in health legislation

Dempsey said snack makers and the SFA have been heavily focused on The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – also known as food stamps.

SNAP is a public health policy initiative that provides food purchasing assistance with the goal of improving access to healthy food to the US. In August this year, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service issued a ‘request for information’ notice to get comment from industry and all interested parties on opportunities to enhance retailer definitions and requirements to improve access to healthy food choices for SNAP participants.

The SFA opposes a potential change to the definition of ‘staple foods’ in the program. It said a change in definition could result in the program being based on single nutritional values, rather than a total diet approach. In its submitted comment, the SFA wrote: “Currently no clear standard exists in the federal government for defining foods as good or bad, healthy or not healthy. The dietary needs of SNAP recipients are diverse, adding additional complexity.”

The association added that USDA research indicates non-SNAP and SNAP recipients are ‘nearly identical’ in purchasing trends – with SNAP recipients no more likely to consumer soft drinks than higher-income individuals and less likely to consume sweets and salty snacks.

“Time and effort has been put into government affairs issues and consultations so that legislation continues to work for our members,” Dempsey said.

Dealing with legislation is daunting for manufacturers, he said. “The biggest thing is that we need to educate snack manufacturers that these regulations are in place and then on how to adhere to them. It’s almost a two-step process.” 

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