According to Mintel, the top reason Americans snack is to treat themselves1—great news for sweet snack companies! Consumers’ desire for indulgence and reward also means that for most sweet snackers, health is not on their radar. So what is? When it comes to packaged pastries, donuts, snack cakes, cookies, muffins, and brownies, consumers know exactly what they’re looking for. Check out this year’s latest and emerging sweet snack trends—including C-store on-the-go, keto, and European flavors.
Sweet baked goods is a thriving $2 billion category in U.S. convenience stores, with three brands accounting for over 65% of sales: Hostess at 22.9%, Little Debbie at 21.6%, and Bon Appetit at 20.9%.2 Eighty-six percent of dollars in this category are from single-serve sizes, and dollar sales are growing for pastries and cookies. Convenient stores are undoubtedly a quick, convenient place to go to feed a sudden sweet snack craving.
Comfort and Sophisticated Comfort Flavors
Comfort flavors are here to stay. In the sweet snacks category, consumers continue to favor nostalgic indulgent flavors such as sweet brown flavors (e.g., maple, cinnamon, honey, and brown sugar) and fruit flavors (e.g., blueberry, banana, and lemon). More sophisticated versions of these familiar flavors are a growing trend and include decadent adult flavors such as chocolate raspberry, salted caramel, and red velvet cake.
The new Hostess Bakery Petites, which include cake and brownie bites, won Best in Show at last year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo. The fun, snackable size allows for indulgence with portion control. Judges were also impressed by Bakery Petites’ packaging—the first stand-up resealable pouch in the category.
Keto is another of this year’s sweet snack trends. For those embracing the keto movement, fat is not a bad word. The most frequently googled diet of 2018,3 the keto diet is characterized by its high fat (about 60-80% of calories) to carb (5-10% of calories) ratio.
Consumers are increasingly turning to packaged foods to help them reach these targets. Cookies by Fat Snax and decadent snack bars by Kiss My Keto and Love Good Fats rely on ingredients like coconut and almond flours, palm fruit and coconut oils, and alternative sweeteners to achieve the proper fat to carb ratio.
While healthy nutrition is not typically top of mind when a sweet craving strikes, the emerging protein-added sweet snack trend is worth watching. These products are often line extensions of sports nutrition companies that are branching out from powders and bars.
ProSupps’ My Cookie contains whey and soy protein isolates for protein and keeps sugar levels in check with maltitol and sucralose. Its soft-baked chocolate chip cookie boasts 18 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. Offerings from Bake City include its Cookie+ Protein, Muffin+ Protein, and Brownie+ Protein. Its chocolate chip cookie contains 20 grams of protein (from faba bean protein and wheat gluten) and 5 grams of fiber.
Clean label is clearly making inroads into the sweet snacks category. A prime example is Tate’s Bake Shop, whose craft baked chocolate chip cookie was rated top in the country by Consumer Reports. Once only available in natural foods stores, Tate’s products can now be found in mainstream supermarkets. The appealing clean label ingredients include unbleached flour, butter, cane sugar, brown cane sugar, eggs, baking soda, salt, and vanilla extract. Even Hostess is cleaning up its ingredient labels with the new Hostess Bakery Petites line.
This year’s sweet snack trends also include European sweet snacks, as Americans gain more exposure to imported packaged foods through stores like Trader Joe’s, TJ Maxx and Marshalls (TJX Companies), and Eataly. The expansion of Eataly to locations in Boston, Los Angeles, and Chicago is spreading some old world flavor across the U.S., with new stores scheduled to open in Dallas and Toronto.
Italian sweet baked goods include pistachio biscotti and amaretti (almond) cookies flavored with orange or espresso. Other trending Italian flavors in the U.S. are hazelnut and chocolate orange. French flavors such as lavender lemon and salted rosemary are also showing up more frequently in U.S. sweet snacks, particularly in shortbread cookies.
The Sweet Taste of Success
Understanding today’s sweet snack trends is key to delivering what consumers want—such as single serve and mini sizes, comfort flavors or familiar flavors with a twist, and products at easy in-and-out locations like convenience stores. It also allows us to monitor the influx of popular health trends like protein, keto, and clean label into the category so we know when to address these growing needs.
Learn how Watson can help you achieve the sweet taste of success with your sweet baked goods! Click to learn more about Edible Glitter.
1. Mintel. (2017). Top Reason US Consumers Say They Snack is To Treat Themselves. Retrieved from https://www.mintel.com/press-centre/food-and-drink/top-reason-us-consumers-snack-is-to-treat-themselves
2. McLane Company, Inc. (2019). Packaged Bakery. Retrieved from https://www.mclaneco.com/content/sms/en/resources/articles/print/snacks-bakery.html
3. Brueck, H. (2018). The keto diet fascinated Americans most in 2018. Here are the top 10 diet trends of the year, according to Google. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/most-popular-diets-keto-fodmap-2018-12