Given the highly competitive nature of the snack foods market, levels of innovation and new product activity have traditionally been on the high side.

This has been accentuated by growing consumer health demands, as well as the pressure manufacturers are coming under to develop nutritionally superior snacks.

Some areas where innovation efforts have been particularly notable include baked snacks, as well as nuts and fruit-based products. It should be noted that the examples listed in this chapter are not meant to be exhaustive but rather to give some indication of recent new product activity from the market’s leading suppliers and how this is driving the development of the category.

Baked snacks

One area of the market where levels of activity have been high has been baked savoury snacks. More manufacturers appear to be viewing this as an area of opportunity, since more consumers are now actively seeking out snacks which offer considerably lower fat levels than conventional potato crisps.

PepsiCo continues to drive the development of the baked savoury snacks market. Not only has it launched baked snacks within the tortilla chips category via its Quaker brand, but it has extended the concept to the Indian market with the introduction of Aliva, a baked cracker-like snacks made from wheat and lentils. In the US, the company has also recently extended the Frito-Lay Baked! range with a new Southwestern Ranch variety, while at the same time relaunching the brand to incorporate a new flavouring process.

In the UK market, bakery manufacturers Associated British Foods and Warburtons have both entered the baked snacks market within the last couple of years. ABF brought out new baked crispy snacks containing 70 calories per serving under its Ryvita brand, which had already been making inroads into the snacking market through the launch of convenient snack packs. The new products from Warburtons included Snack A Doodle and Chippidy DooDaa, the latter of which is made from pieces of pitta bread and contains 60% less fat than regular potato crisps.

The previous year had seen Intersnack UK's division extend its Penn State brand with new Baked Deli Chips, available in ethnic-inspired flavours such as Spicy Jalfrezi and Sizzling Teriyaki. Baked snacks have also been launched in Australia, one example of which is Fantastic Delites from Fantastic Snacks, a range of crinkle-cut rice-based products. As is the case with many of the other baked snacks listed, these new additions were aimed at adults aged 30-years-old and up, targeting the at-home snacking market in particular.

Other savoury snacks

One of the most popular innovations over the last couple of years has been the introduction of more snacks featuring whole grains and/or multi-grains. This trend has been particularly noticeable in the US savoury snacks market, where considerable efforts have been made to raise awareness of the health benefits of these products.

At the start of 2009, the US-based Shearer's Foods launched Shapers, a new range of whole grain chips containing up to 19g of whole grains per serving. The flavours in the range included Sea Salt, Cheddar and Black Bean & Salsa. The following year, the Pringles brand was extended with new Pringles MultiPage grain, which was launched in flavours such as Creamy Ranch and Cheesy Cheddar.

Whole grain snacks have also been launched within the Australian market, which suggests that awareness of their health benefits is growing outside the US. In 2008, PepsiCo subsidiary Smith's launched Grainwaves, whole grain potato crisps containing up to 25% less fat than regular varieties. Available in flavours such as Original and Sweet Chilli, the company website claims that they are only available in the state of New South Wales at present.

One of the more novel savoury snacks to have emerged in 2010 was Yogurt Covered Pretzels, which were launched by Kraft Foods' Canadian unit. These were described as bite-sized snacks combining salty pretzels with creamy yoghurt, and were launched under the Thinsations 100 Calories brand, which is aimed at dieters. Yoghurt is starting to feature to a greater degree within the snack foods market, mainly on account of the fact that it is generally regarded as a light and healthy product.

Despite the widening of the healthy snacking category, traditional offerings such as low-fat and low-salt snacks continue to appear. One such example was the launch of Pinch of Salt, low-salt versions of some of PepsiCo’s most popular brand, which appeared in March 2008. Brands in the range included Fritos corn chips and Ruffles and Lay’s potato crisps, all of which contained between 30% and 50% less salt than the regular varieties.

At a similar time, the Irish firm Tayto extended its Velvet Crunch range of lowcalorie and low-fat potato crisps with a new flavour, Sweet Thai Chilli. This move, which was replicated in the Northern Ireland snacks market except using the company's King Velvet Crunch brand, suggests that demand for healthier potato crisps remains strong amongst sections of the world's population.

Activity levels within the UK rice cakes sector were relatively high during 2009, when market leader PepsiCo invested GBP1.8m into a promotional campaign for its Quaker Snack-A-Jacks brand. At the start of the year, PepsiCo unveiled a new Jumbo variety of its popular Salt & Vinegar flavour, which contains only 45 calories per serving. Later in 2009, the company extended the range with new Hot Tomato and Smokey Bacon varieties, in a bid to capitalise on the growing popularity of meaty and spicy flavours.

Consumer concern over artificial additives and ingredients has also led some snack manufacturers to emphasise the natural nature of their products. One such example was the Red Sky range, which was brought out by PepsiCo UK during 2008. Although this new range of snacks was marketed on a premium platform, the products were also flagged up as 100% natural on their packaging.

Nuts, seeds and mixes

New products continue to emerge within the global market for nuts, seeds and mixes, with many of the world's leading snack manufacturers apparently keen to increase their presence within this expanding category. Perhaps the most significant product launch within this sector was TrueNorth, a range of 100% natural nut-based snacks brought out by PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay unit in 2008. The new range was made up of three types of nut-based snack, namely nut clusters, nut crisps and nut crunches, and featured varieties such as Almond Clusters and Pistachio Crisps. The range was later expanded at the end of 2009 with seasonally-inspired flavours, such as Almond Cranberry Vanilla.

Staying in the US, the Planters brand from Kraft Foods was extended in May 2010 with new mixes. These appeared under the company’s NUT-rition healthy snacks label, and featured Omega-3 Mix (a blend of walnuts, cranberries and soy nuts) and Antioxidants Mix (a blend of fruit, almonds and cashews). At the same time, Kraft also brought out two new energy bars under the NUT-rition banner.

Elsewhere, United Biscuits has extended its KP brand into the mixes category in the UK, via the recent launch of new products in flavours such as Sea Salt & Rosemary with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Chilli & Lemongrass with Sweet Fire Red Pepper Pieces.

During the course of 2008, Alara Wholefoods expanded into the UK healthy snacks market with the launch of Earther’s Delight, a superfood mix featuring ingredients such as goji berries, pumpkin seeds, coconut nibs and maca, a Peruvian fruit. New mixes were also brought out by Sun Valley (a leading supplier of nuts to the own-label sector) as part of a relaunch of its range in 2010. The mixes included ingredients such as exotic berries and dragonfruit pieces.

Fruit snacks and bars

Levels of new product activity also remain high within the market for fruit-based snacks and bars. Many of these have been launched in response to health campaigns designed to boost consumption of fruit, as a result of which many fruit-based products are now being marketed as contributing towards one of the five recommended portions of fruit and vegetables which ought to be consumed every day. The first snack product in the UK to feature the 5 A Day logo was Fruits, a range featuring products such as dried apricots and sultanas which was launched by Whitworths in 2008.

One of the most active companies within this sector has been Kellogg. At the start of 2010, the company launched Special K Fruit Crisps in its home US market. These light and crispy snack bars with a fruit filling were targeted at a female audience, and were launched in Strawberry and Blueberry flavours. Another recent US launch from Kellogg was Fruit Flavoured Snacks, which are aimed at children. These appeared in Number Bites and Letter Bites varieties.

2010 has also seen new snack-oriented cereal and energy bars launched by both PepsiCo and General Mills. In the US, PepsiCo extended its Quaker range with Simple Harvest Trail Mix Snack Bars (which feature almonds, cranberries, peanuts and whole grains as ingredients) and Fiber & Omega-3 Snack Bars, each of which supply 35% of the recommended daily intake of fibre. In the UK, General Mills has recently extended its Nature Valley range with Chewy Trail Mix snack bars, which were launched in Fruit & Nut and Mixed Berry flavours.

In the UK, Lyme Regis Foods (a division of Glisten, now owned by Finland's Raisio) expanded its presence in the healthy impulse snacking market during May 2010 with the launch of Smoothie Bars and Smoothie Bites, both of which appeared under the Fruitus brand. This development followed on from the extension of the Fruitus brand with chewy fruit bars at the end of 2008. The latter bars were made with 95% fruit, and were launched in Tropical Fruit, Summer Fruits and Apple & Pear flavours.