As competition for the U.S. snacking dollar intensifies, pressure is mounting on the salty snacks category to adapt and diversify in order to maintain its relevance. New product development (NPD) is already reflecting the industry’s push toward added value in both nutrition and taste.

According to a report from Innova Market Insights, snacking has already become an all-day habit in the United States. While 46% of consumers eat salty snacks in between meals in the afternoon and 37% in the evening, more consumers are also replacing traditional meals with quicker bites. The numbers of consumers who are consuming salty snacks at lunchtime (23%), dinner (17%), and even breakfast (8%) are on the increase.

This substitution of meals has encouraged many consumers to choose snacks with enhanced nutritional value. The salty snacks industry is clearly working to meet this need, with launches of snack nuts and seeds growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11% between 2014 and 2018.

Snack mixes also appear to be benefiting from this trend, with introductions up at a 16% CAGR over the same period. Many mixes contain naturally nutritious fruits, nuts, and seeds, but they can also include sweeter, more indulgent elements such as chocolate-coated ingredients.

“Enjoyment is still a very strong driver behind snacks purchase,” said Lu Ann Williams, head of innovation at Innova Market Insights. “When asked why they buy salty snacks, 40% of Americans named taste and a further 22% said it was to treat or reward themselves, so innovators need to balance nutrition and taste to ensure that salty snacks remain competitive for all snacking occasions.”

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