KANSAS CITY - Almost half of all Americans reported snacking more during the pandemic. But even before COVID, snacking was on a steady upward trajectory, and healthy snacks — like fresh fruits and vegetables — were faring particularly well, a trend that should continue throughout 2021.

Chris Veillon, chief marketing officer for Pure Hothouse Foods Inc., Leamington, Ontario, which markets the Pure Flavor brand, said his company continues to see an uptick in demand for all of its snacking items, regardless of commodity.

“After a very strong summer and fall, we continue to ship more product than we ever have before,” Veillon said. “We’ve increased our acreage and expanded our family of growers to meet the surging demand.”

Pure Flavor grows and markets an extensive variety of snacking items. In addition to a wide range of tomato and pepper snack products, the company also offers value-added snacking products, including Mini Munchies Veggie Snack Packs, Mini Munchies Tomato Snack Packs, Snack+ Vegetable Packs and 3 Sweet Snacking Tomatoes.

Demand is so strong, Pure Flavor’s top-selling item, period, is a snacking item: Juno Bites® Red Grape Tomatoes.

The demand for more healthy snacking options, Veillon said, is prompting growers and marketers to further research and develop items that are convenient and fresh and that can help increase fresh produce consumption.

“Snacking in the produce world is about healthy, bite-sized, conveniently packed items that people can enjoy in between meals or on the go,” he said. “Single Serve Opportunities (SSO) help provide solutions that are quick and effortless, and the healthy snacks in these packs are needed to help maintain a balanced diet.”

Higher demand, new products

Consumer demand for fresh, easy, healthy ingredients continues to be on the rise, and snacking is no exception, said Lori Castillo of San Antonio-based NatureSweet.

“We’re seeing a host of new products expanding the category in an attempt to meet these demands,” she said. “Small tomato usage continues to increase as consumers focus more on salads and other healthy, easy-to-use in your home kitchen products. 

NatureSweet’s snacking lineup includes Cherubs, Glorys, Constellation, Comets, Twilights and D’VINES in the tomato category; and mini-cucumbers and peppers. Cherubs are the company’s top-selling snacking product and, Stahly said, the No. 1-selling small tomato in the world.

Retailers can expect new additions to NatureSweet’s snacking lineup later this year, Castillo said.

A number of trends have marked the evolution of the snacking category over the years, Veillon said: new grape and cherry tomato varieties, new snack-sized cucumber varieties, the introduction of the one bite type varieties and a boom in the snacking pepper category.

Recent new snacking products from Pure Flavor include:

  • Fall 2019 – Mini Munchies® Veggie Snack Packs
  • Winter 2020 – RedRoyals™ Sweet Cherry Tomatoes on the Vine
  • Winter 2021 – Uno Bites™ Nano Cucumbers

Another trend Pure Flavor is tracking closely is demand for sustainable, low-waste products in the snacking category. Products like Uno Bites Nano Cucumbers are a perfect fit for consumers with these concerns, Veillon said.

“Creating portion sizes that are consumable in one sitting is becoming more attractive to purchasers from a use standpoint but also the fact that there is no waste. You don’t need to peel them, you eat them whole, in one shot.”

A date for snacking

Mill Valley, Calif.-based TerraFresh Organics’ newest product, Oasis Date Gardens, is a line of Deglet Noor dates that ship in convenient resealable, stand-up snack packs. 

The organic, pitted Deglet Noor dates come in ready-to-eat pack sizes with less than 100 calories per serving. Product ships in eight individual 1.16-ounce packs inside a master bag and 8-ounce and 32-ounce family-style resealable stand-up pouches. 

“We’re thrilled to bring the California organic heirloom Deglet Noor date to customers through this new Oasis Date Gardens brand,” said Greg Holzman, co-founder and managing partner of TerraFresh Organics. “We believe that ‘on-the-go’ shouldn’t mean ‘going without.’ Therefore, the new snack pack sizes are perfect for a healthy and convenient snack.” 

New Pure Flavor snacking variety puts the “fruit” back in tomato

In January Leamington, Ontario-based Pure Flavor launched a new grape tomato, Cloud 9®, that’s full of juicy, fruity flavor that’s very rarely if ever seen in a bite-sized tomato, said Chris Veillon, Pure Flavor’s chief marketing officer.

Pure Flavor has dubbed it “a tiny taste of heaven™” that’s perfect for snacking. Product ships in a dry pint top-seal 2-pound clamshell.

“Our family of growers hand-select a limited quantity of the most vibrant tomatoes so you can enjoy bold, balanced flavor that sweetens any snack or homecooked meal,” Veillon said. “With a blast of fruity sweetness in every bite, Cloud 9® tomatoes are the everyday treat you’ve been looking for.”

Cloud 9® is a “game changer” when it comes to flavor, Veillon said. A dark burgundy in color, it’s smaller than typical grape tomatoes, and the impression it leaves is definitely more “fruit” than “vegetable” in the endless debate about tomatoes are more fruit or vegetable.

Being greenhouse grown provides a sustainable supply and removes the seasonality by being grown indoors, Veillon added, and Pure Flavor’s growers carefully manage the plants’ health and lifecycle to ensure they’re producing quality fruit in the optimal growing environment.

This story was included in the February 2021 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. Read the rest of the magazine here.