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Uneasy bedfellows: Salt and health in US snacking

By Kacey Culliney+

10-Jan-2014
Last updated on 10-Jan-2014 at 13:05 GMT

A majority of US snackers say snacking healthily is difficult - most are concerned with taste compromise, research finds
A majority of US snackers say snacking healthily is difficult - most are concerned with taste compromise, research finds

Americans prefer salty snacks but they're also looking for health - can these two co-exist?

A 1000-strong national survey conducted at the end of last year by Kelton found that 85% of Americans find healthy snacking difficult.

“Americans struggle to find a balance between what tastes good and what’s good for them,” said snack bar manufacturer Taste of Nature – the survey sponsor.

Half of those surveyed said healthy snacking was difficult because it was hard to find a healthy snack that tastes good.

Taste was cited as the first consideration when making a snack choice (73%) – ahead of convenience (54%).  

The survey found that just under half of consumers (40%) experienced difficulties in finding inexpensive healthy snacks.

The research also found that weekends – Saturday and Sunday – were the days when Americans were most likely to snack on unhealthy foods.

A desire to consumer healthier snacks does exist…

However, American consumers do want to snack healthily, the survey showed, with 42% saying they could commit to adding one healthy snack into their diet each day.

Other research on US snacking trends from Packaged Facts supported findings that US consumers had a desire to eat healthy snacks. The market researcher also pinpointed salty snacks as the American favorite.

Across the country, 50 million regular snackers claimed salty snacks as their favorite, it said in its ‘Salty Snacks in the US’ report.

“Within the population of these self-professed frequent salty snackers, there is a cadre of 14.2 million ‘healthy’ salty snackers, whose favorite snack is a salty snack and who also claim that they ‘usually only snack on healthy foods’,” said the market researcher.

“These frequent salty snackers exercise often, seek out healthy-ingredient foods of all kinds and do not see a conflict between craving salty snack sand pursuing a healthy snacking diet.”

What should salty snack makers do?

Packaged Facts said manufacturers need to be “agile and fast-moving” to keep up with the challenges of today’s generation of salty snackers. Within this, flavor innovation and “unexpected flavor combinations” will be needed to attract consumers.

The CEO of the Snack Food Association (SFA) previously told BakeryandSnacks.com that choice was important when developing snacks . He said ensuring a combination of healthy and traditional snacks would secure market growth.

Packaged Facts: “Moreover, salty snacks marketers will need to be alert to new possibilities for creating innovative products by merging traditional platforms into new snack forms.”

They will face competition from smaller players, “bent on launching creative and healthy products to meet the needs of today’s increasingly health-conscious consumers”, it added.

David Sprinkle, research director at Packaged Facts, said salty snack makers would also need to work hard to differentiate from other ‘better-for-you’ products like fruit- and nut-based snacks.

He said calling out other attributes such as non-GMO, vegan or organic could work, as well as labeling the product more subjectively with words like local, pure, real or allergy-friendly on pack.

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