Top Ten Snack Trends 2010

The Food Channel presents its Top Ten Snack Trends of the Year. The list is based on research conducted by The Food Channel in conjunction with CultureWaves®, the International Food Futurists, and Mintel International. Here are the trends we see shaping how we snack.

1. Chip and Dip 2.0. We have a national desire for change, and to literally mix things up—and new varieties and new flavors give us something different. That desire for change is best demonstrated at the snack table, where we find new array of artisanal choices. When was the last time you had potato chips and French Onion dip? It’s much more likely that you’ll have hummus and falafel chips at your next party. When it comes to snacking, we’re seeing new varieties push the old chip and dip duo aside. Instead of traditional chips, you may have Popchips. They’re not fried, not baked, they’re popped. Or your chips may be Pretzel Crisps (pictured), or may be infused with herbs such as rosemary, or they may even be cheese crisps. And the dip is healthier, spicier, and often served hot.


2. Small and Sensational. Grazing is the new snacking. In the old days, snacking was what you did when you grabbed a between-meal bite. Now snacking is literally meal replacement. We are eating more substantial snacks that are packed with protein, and we are eating them more often. So, for our pick-me-ups, we grab a slider at Steak ’n Shake, or a Big Mac Wrap at McDonald’s. Come dinnertime, we may graze some more, but, by today’s definition, snacks may be all we need.

3. The Drink Shift. This trend is all about the “halo of health” around drinks made with fruit or antioxidants. Who knew sweet tea would ever cross the Mason-Dixie line? We have a shift in snack beverages away from colas, away from energy drinks, and more toward teas, lemonades, fruity organic waters, and carbonated fruit drinks. There is an interesting combination of flavors happening, too, with citrus mingling with sweet, like in Taco Bell’s Limeade Sparklers, and with lemonade sweetening iced tea to create the Arnold Palmer. And, let’s talk smoothies. Smoothie shop chain Jamba Juice has just introduced a line of smoothie mixes that lets consumers make smoothies at home. You just add juice and whip it up in a blender. Smooth move, Jamba Juice. Plus, there’s the trend away from high-fructose corn syrup and back to sugar that some soft drink makers are spinning as a “throwback” move.

4. Goin’ Nuts. Nuts and granola. Nuts and fruits. Smoked nuts. There’s been a lot of talk about how good nuts are for you, and our snacking habits are adjusting accordingly. Blue Diamond just opened a new resource, at, to help address the demand, and reminded us all of their Smokehouse Almonds at the same time. Mellace Family Brands put out Cinnabon-licensed mixed nuts, and Nature Valley introduced its Granola Nut Clusters in a variety of flavors. Here again, the flavor combinations give us that feeling that we are eating healthy. The glazed nuts from Sahale Snacks, for example, offer us cashews with pomegranate and vanilla, and Nutorious Nut Confections offers a Cherry Vanilla Va-Voom that has the trifecta of nuts (walnuts, almonds and pecans) mixed with dried Montmorency cherries and vanilla. We’ve even convinced ourselves that dark chocolate is even healthier with nuts, as demonstrated by the new Hammons Black & Gold blend of dark chocolate and caramelized black walnuts.

For further evidence, read . . .
Nutty Health Benefit Update: Two Handfuls Better Than One
Healthy Snacks Can Be Part of a Weight Loss Plan

Recipe evidence:
Walnut Brownie Energy Bites

5. Fruits: The Low Hanging Snack. Fresh. Dried. Freeze-dried. Locally-grown. You name it, and someone is sure to be snacking on it. The trend here is the mainstreaming of new types of fruit, and the redefinition of locally-grown to mean locally-sourced. It’s sort of like pretending that the Amazon açai fruit grows in our backyard, because we have embraced it as our own. So, wherever you live, you can get mangos, and kiwi, and goji berries. Not always fresh, but even some of the packaged products are pretty good, like the Organic Chocolate Covered Bananas we tried from And, when it comes to fresh, blackberries have been in abundance, and white peaches and white cherries have given us a choice when it comes to some old standards. Fresh fruit is now the number one snack among kids aged 2 to 17.

6. Cruising the Bars. When it comes to snacks, they’ve definitely raised the bar. The granola bar, that is. The fact that it’s an acceptable emergency meal is mainstream, sure. What’s new is that the bars are offered in dairy free, gluten free, non GMO, organic, soy free, cholesterol free, trans fat free, and casein free. There are varieties specifically for women, like the Luna Nutrition Bar for Women (try the Berry Almond), and for kids. Flavors include the Key Lime Pie or the Banana Bread from Larabar, Chocolate Pretzel from Kashi, Cashew and Agave Nectar wth Sprouted Flax Seeds from Raw Revolution, and a Raspberry with sea salt from Clif. You can even get a bar with the anti-aging ingredient resveratrol in a dark chocolate bar called Winetime.

7. Sweet and Salty. Snacks have usually fallen into two categories: sweet or salty. And until recent years, the only way they mixed was when we ate something sweet, then craved something salty, or vice-versa. America’s answer to that has been to create caramel with sea salt, and bacon-laced desserts. What we’re seeing now is that the barrier is removed. We dip our pretzels in Nutella and we eat our fruit with a side of popcorn. These tastes are filling up the new-style vending machines, too, where our choices are growing and more information is available. The new high-tech machines have touch screens that let you interact as you do with an iPad to learn about ingredients, nutrition data and more.

8. Yogurt, Redefined. The new gold standard for yogurt is, of course, the increased health value found with probiotics. Activia has somewhat cornered the branding for this, with yogurt that tastes good and makes you feel good about eating it. Then, in our trend toward global flavors, there is Greek yogurt. Its stronger flavor is only palatable to most with a strong dose of honey or other sweetener, but it’s among the healthiest snacks we can eat. Icelandic yogurt is starting to emerge as yet another yogurt world player. The new self-serve frozen yogurt shops are popping up everywhere, too. Although not new, yogurt continues to redefine itself and is definitely trending up.

9. Bodaciously Bold. The point of snacking is to satisfy an urge—it’s not necessarily about hunger. It’s about getting up from your desk, eating on the run, complete portability. And, face it, urges are not satisfied with something bland. So bold flavors are almost becoming de regeur. How else to explain flavors such as Doritos First-, Second-, and Third-Degree Burn (Scorchin’ Habanero)? Or Dr Pepper-Snapple’s Venom energy drink? Even that old favorite snack, Chex Mix, has a Spicy Szechuan flavor.

10. Nostalgia’s New Again. Any decent tribute to snacking has to mention the traditional Snack Cake. The Hostess Twinkie, the Ding Dong, the TastyKake, the Little Debbie. We didn’t say they were good for you, but anything that has lasted this long deserves a mention in the snacking hall of fame. And, truth be told, we all snack on some of these from time to time. After all, a snack without a bit of “I-hope-no-one-catches-me” decadence isn’t really worth the trouble! So bite into a memory, but don’t let Mom know you’ve spoiled your dinner.