“One of the major trends we see is that as time-starved, yet health-conscious millennials increasingly look for quicker access snack and grocery options, smaller footprint stores like convenience stores and dollar stores are adding or reallocating refrigerated space for fresh, all-natural food and snack offerings,” says Todd Latham, chief marketing officer for Swanton, Ohio-based Willy’s Fresh Salsa.
To address that trend, Willy’s recently began partnering with some of those smaller retail chains in adding their products as a fresh, natural snack option.
The company is also working on smaller container sizes for grab-and-go options.
“We saw the smaller footprint stores turning their focus to healthier snack options and adding or rearranging refrigerated space to accommodate more fresh items, so a fresh, all-natural salsa like Willy’s seemed a logical fit,” Latham says.
Fresh Cravings, a Phoenix-based producer of refrigerated salsas, recently introduced a new grab-and-go product with its Salsa and Tortilla Chips snack pack. The snack packs are available in Fresh Cravings’ most popular recipe, Restaurant Style with Mild Heat.
“We continuously hear from our customers that they want healthier, more affordable snacking solutions for their families,” says Jay Whitney, president of FoodStory Brands, the company behind Fresh Cravings. “We developed this Fresh Cravings Salsa and Tortilla Chips combo to help parents find a fun and more nourishing snack for their kids and for themselves.”
Willy’s is also introducing a smaller, grab-and-go option. The official rollout is slated for late summer for the 8-oz product. Latham says all machinery is in and packaging is nearly ready to go on the line.
As popular as the grab-and-go trend is, the clean label trend is doing all it can to keep up.
Tribe Mediterranean Foods, producer of Tribe Hummus, recently wrapped up the 11-month process of removing all artificial preservatives from its products. All potassium sorbate was removed in response to consumer demand for cleaner labels, the company says.
“It nearly took us a year to make sure that the process was bulletproof,” says John McGuckin, Tribe’s CEO, while noting that other market leaders still use potassium sorbate. “Because we pasteurize our products, we had the opportunity to remove that. We added some other features inside the plant, particularly humidity control and air handling.”
Thus far, McGuckin says, the results have been outstanding. “We’re very excited. We’re one of the only, if not the only, nationally distributed brand that declares no artificial preservatives right on our label,” he says. “That’s because more consumers are becoming more cognizant of what they’re putting in their bodies, especially when it comes to moms shopping for their children. People are reading labels now and they’re much more informed about their health and wellness. We want to make sure we’re right there for our consumers on that.”
Latham says that Willy’s noticed that while consumers demanding organic or non-GMO products were being well served in the dips category, smaller sub-groups were not.
“Namely, vegans and those who adhere to strict kosher diets were having a hard time finding salsas and dips for themselves,” he says.
So, Willy’s products are certified now both vegan and kosher. The process was completed about eight months ago, but due to packaging inventory, the updated packaging with the certifications are just now hitting store shelves.
“Due to our processes and ingredients, vegan and kosher certifications weren’t a huge step for us, so the decision was pretty easy,” Latham says. “With vegan and kosher certified products, you have the added benefit of gaining new market opportunities without losing old ones. For some consumers, due to dietary restrictions, it may be the first time they’ve been able to enjoy an authentic Mexican Cantina style salsa, and we know from experience that once someone is able to try it, they’re hooked.”
Tribe is hoping it has found a way to offer a healthier dessert while also growing the hummus consumer base in one fell swoop. The company’s new line of sweet hummuses recently launched and McGuckin says the early results have been promising.
“It’s getting great feedback. It tastes great and what’s nice about chocolate is that, just chocolate by itself has a 97 percent household penetration, compared to hummus, which is about 27 percent,” he says. “That’s a big way to increase exposure.”
Tribe’s chocolate hummus was the first to go to market. It is available by itself or in snack packs, paired with Snack Factory pretzel crisps.
“The nice thing about a chocolate hummus, and what we talk about all the time, is that it helps build categories,” McGuckin says. “By attracting folks that are looking for a healthier way to eat sweet products, we can bring them into the category and get them engaged with the category. We think we’ll see a lot of people coming into the hummus category now, whether they be new users or lapsed users. They’re going to come in, let’s say, through the sweet portal and then begin to play with the savory flavors as well.”
The sweet hummuses contain between 4 and 6 grams of sugar per serving, far less than leading chocolate dips. McGuckin says he thinks that, and the product’s versatility, will make it a huge success.
“It is very versatile,” he says. “We’re beginning to work with some fruit companies, people who package fruit platters and vegetable platters, and finding there’s a growing interest in our savory products with vegetable platters and a demand for the chocolate hummus for fruit.”
But it’s not just dessert hummus that Tribe is using to expand the category’s horizons. The company recently unveiled new flavors ranging from Buffalo to Sea Salt & Vinegar to Ranch. These flavors can also be used as healthier options, McGuckin says, as consumers sub in hummus for traditional sour cream-based dips.
“We think we’re going to begin to see hummus throughout the store in new ways. We’ll introduce consumers to a more health and wellness position as they look to hummus compared to some of the sour cream-based dips that have dominated the market in the past,” McGuckin says. “I think we’re going to begin seeing some quick-serve restaurants and some notable national restaurant chains begin to incorporate hummus into their menus in new ways. Again, that only opens up awareness and help to fuel category growth in the supermarket. We’re excited about what that brings.”