NatureBox burst onto the snacks scene in 2012 as the ‘Trader Joe’s of online snacking’ with curated subscription boxes focused on treats that are free from any artificial elements; contain no corn syrup, hydrogenated oils or MSG; and pack in less than 10g of added sugar per serving.
The goal is to provide great tasting snacks with functional benefits right to your front door - even launching the ‘first-ever automated corporate snacking service’ to buoy the lockdown-driven virtual meeting craze. The world has experienced a radical shift in how it operates and the California-based platform was quick to capitalise on the demand from employers for creative and meaningful ways to engage with both their in-office and remote workers.
The US snack food scene remains as vibrant as ever and is projected to maintain its nearly two decade year-over-year upward trend, with projected revenues to top $169.6bn in 2027, up from $116bn in 2017.
But getting a piece of that very lucrative pie means fighting off stiff competition.
It’s a highly competitive space, populated with major players like PepsiCo Frito-Lay, Hostess, Campbell Snacks, Kellogg’s, Mondelez, Nestle, General Mills et al, not to mention thousands of up-and-coming disruptors. The US is home to over 3,700 snack producers in 2023, an increase of 4.4% from 2022, according to IBISWorld.
Eating habits have changed and consumers are opting for a grazing plan rather than sitting down to three square meals. In fact, a 2021 snacking survey by Mondelez revealed that 65% of consumers across the globe prefer nibbling on pick-me-ups throughout the day rather than big, solid plates of food - up from 59% in 2019.
That’s long, steady growth for the sector, but the million dollar question is what will continue to drive consumer demand?
Having served over 3.5 million consumers with better-for-you snacks, Stella Kim, food product developer for NatureBox by HUNGRY weighs in with some of her observations and prediction.
“At NatureBox, taste is always the most important factor in developing awesome snacks, so staying on top of flavour trends is key to our operation,” said Kim.
Noting it will be the biggest driver in snacks, she added, “Consumers are looking for unique flavour combinations that haven’t been traditionally available.
“They want to try something new and different, which is why we're seeing more unique flavour combinations being offered, particularly from South and Southeast Asian regions.”
One nuanced trend that Kim is seeing take wings is complex heat.
“From chili-infused chocolate to savoury snack mixes incorporating ethnic spices, this is an area with large opportunities for innovation and expansion in the snack market.
“We’re also seeing a return to indulgent flavours - think cookie butter, bourbon caramel, ruby cocoa and brown sugar - for everyday enjoyment.
“Finally, exotic flavours and combinations are on the rise, with things like dragonfruit, pickled strawberries and black tahini becoming popular due to increasingly adventurous consumer palates.”
According to Kim, workplace snacking continues to grow as more workers return to the office. However, there remains a large contingency of professionals working remotely. That’s an awfully big pool of corporate snackers.
“With 94% of consumers snacking at least twice daily and snacking accounting for 50% of all eating occurrences, it makes sense that businesses are finding a lot of value in providing workplace snacks not just as an incentive, but as a standard offering in kitchens and pantries to help keep workers productive,” said Kim.
“Within the workplace snacking sphere, we’ve seen an interesting divergence of demand among business.
“One market segment is squarely focused on sustainability efforts and looking for snacking solutions that reduce packaging waste and use sustainably sourced ingredients.
“Another driving segment are those companies focused on health, safety and hygiene leading to a greater demand for individually wrapped, single-serve snack options like nuts, dried fruit, jerky and snack mixes. This includes an uptick in businesses looking for meal replacement snacks like protein bars.”
Health and wellness
NatureBox believes the future of snacking is firmly rooted in health, with bigger demand for personalised, convenient options that cater to specific dietary needs and lifestyles.
“The demand for healthy snacks is growing as consumers become more aware of what they’re eating,” said Kim.
“They are looking for healthier ingredients, functional foods, snacks that support gut health and portion-controlled snacks. They want to know if there are any allergens or preservatives in their snack options so they can make informed choices about what they eat.
“Owing to this greater level of awareness, we expect to see a rising demand for plant-based snacks, functional snacks and snacks with added protein.”