Nancy Trent is a writer and speaker, a lifelong health advocate, a globe-trotting trend watcher and the founder and president of Trent & Company, a New York-based public relations and marketing communications firm. Trent & Company has a client roster of text book case studies of products, venues, books, films and experts in healthy lifestyles spanning traditional and alternative disciplines for wellness, beauty, fitness, nutrition and the environment.
Many snack and candy companies are shifting towards using more natural, whole-food ingredients and avoiding artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. They are incorporating more functional ingredients as well, such as fiber or protein, to create more nutritious, but still delectable, options. Developing products that are cleaner and healthier by reducing the amount of processed and chemical ingredients makes it easier for consumers to indulge in their favorite savory or sweet treats. Brands that are creating healthier choices, are bettering our mind and body.
ECRM Director of Category Development, Lisa Burkart, shares how ECRM has seen an increase in better for you food culture. "At this session, we saw a lot of confections that are made with better for you ingredients: lower sugar, natural, non-GMO, and even added health benefits, while still feeling indulgent. We are also seeing traditional treats we've all grown to love, but with a healthier spin. A lot of people are becoming more aware of the ingredients they are consuming or giving to their kids. There's definitely a place for candy and snacks that have cleaner ingredients so we can enjoy while still making healthier choices."
Since consumers are prioritizing cleaner and healthier selections, it’s important that brands do the same. Here are some of the splendid brands upgrading our treats, as seen at ECRM’s Better for You Snack show, plus information on the trajectory of this category and what we can learn from retailers in this sector.
Xlear is the leading manufacturer of xylitol-based products in North America. They provide simple and cost-effective prevention for dental care and are committed to providing natural, health-enhancing products based on the safety, effectiveness, and science of xylitol. Pure xylitol is a white, crystalline substance found in many fruits and vegetables. The Xlear Brand includes Spry Dental Xylitol gum and mints. There's all kinds of evidence based research about the benefits of chewing this gum and that this gum should be chewed everyday as a prevention ritual and a comprehensive dental wellness program. Their gum and mints defend against bacteria that cause cavities and tooth decay while freshening breath in a convenient way. These products revitalize your mouth and help you achieve a healthier smile for your whole family. They are natural, effective, and dentist recommended.
More people are becoming aware of what's in snacks and especially what they are feeding their kids. According to founder Mika Shino of Issei Mochi Gummies, this category will continue to expand. This company is a mission driven, innovation-forward, woman/minority-owned company, and aiming to build bridges, foster diversity, and add a little magic to daily life through beautiful, delicious, better-for-you snacks. These treats are a soft, chewy, pillowy texture somewhere between a gummy bear and a marshmallow with no gluten, nuts, dairy, or soy, is non-GMO, completely vegan and shelf stable.
Issei Mochi Gummies has expanded to 170 Whole Foods stores. Using innovative science, they created a gummy candy made without gelatin that has subtle flavor. This product was inspired by the traditional Japanese mochi treats, though they are not available in Japan, made with pure rice grains and mountain spring water for centuries. Probably one of the cleanest snacks ever invented. Mika grew up in the hills of Kyoto, Japan and she used her "love language of cooking" to make something entirely new because as she said, "food is a universal bond and a bridge to many cultures."
HI-CHEW was originally created as a substitute for chewing gum since it’s considered impolite and taboo to remove food from one’s mouth in Japan. That’s why Founder Taichiro Morinaga used his candy making skills he developed in the United States to create the chewlet - a double layered, immensely fruity, intensely chewy candy. HI-CHEW became a phenomenon in Japan, and today is widely popular in the U.S. after Morinaga America, Inc. was established in 2008.
HI-CHEW’s chewy texture is unique and provides true-to-life fruit flavors to consumers. No matter what consumers may be craving, HI-CHEW offers original and exotic flavors. “We regularly conduct Chew Crew Surveys, where we look to gain feedback from our brand fans, such as their flavor preference and desire to try new flavors introduced to the market. Through our surveys, we found fans prefer HI-CHEW over other products on the market due to its true-to-life and exotic flavor offerings,” says Takuma Oka of HI-CHEW.
Unlike most of their direct competitors, HI-CHEW is available in a variety of packaging to provide an option for every occasion. As we see an increased demand for snacks on the go and value packs, for the inflationary environment, they’re diving into even more packaging innovation to have a mainstay in the ever-changing world. Oka adds, “In February, we launched HI-CHEW Bites giving consumers a new, convenient way to enjoy our chewlets on the go. HI-CHEW Bites comes in bite-size packaging, with unwrapped chewlets in three of the most popular flavors: Mango, Green Apple and Strawberry.”
Oka recognizes that the snacking industry continues to see the demand for better-for-you products and the category being more top-of-mind for consumers. “According to a Chew Crew Survey in 2021, 97% of consumers who enjoy HI-CHEW regularly expressed interest in trying a reduced sugar candy offering,” says Oka. With this research in mind, HI-CHEW introduced HI-CHEW Reduced Sugar - the classic HI-CHEW chewlets made with 30% less sugar content.
For retail sales, HI-CHEW consistently seeks partnerships that align with their mission and help them further amplify their presence in markets across the United States. “We want HI-CHEW to be enjoyed by all ages and part of the full family experience. That is why we’ve partnered with various MLB teams, including the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and Detroit Tigers, to host and sponsor activations at the stadiums. In addition, we have partnered with more family focused brands like Chuck E. Cheese and Six Flags,” states Oka.
At the show, this brand received a great amount of interest in the upcoming addition to the Morinaga America, Inc. (MAI) portfolio, HI-SOFT, a rich and creamy salted caramel chew. According to IRI data based for the past 52 weeks, Morinaga America, Inc. achieved a 24% growth rate compared to the year before, outpacing other major competitors.
At ECRM, they learned that retailers are more open and supportive of new brands.
MAGICDATES are date-based confections and snacks created by founder Diana Jarrar-Solomon to bring pleasure back to eating. “The date is our hero ingredient because of its nutritional superpowers and poetic agricultural history that makes it the perfect symbol of cultural connection,” says Solomon.
Solomon also shared where she thinks the Better For You Snack Category is going: “I think it’s going to be the only category in snacks, meaning all snacks will be better-for-you, as they should be.” Consumers, and society as a whole, are learning that the basics of good nutrition, movement and a healthy mind are the tenets of well-being.
NOTE: WholeFoods Magazine is a business-to-business publication. Information on this site should not be considered medical advice or a way to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. Always seek the advice of a medical professional before making lifestyle changes, including taking a dietary supplement. The opinions expressed by contributors and experts quoted in articles are not necessarily those of the publisher or editors of WholeFoods.