Redefining Healthy Snacking: Case Studies in Growth and Innovation

Healthy snacking is at the dawn of a new era of opportunity. Consumers are more willing than ever to experiment with flavours, ingredients, product formats and textures.

This report delivers practical insights and examples for companies large or small aiming to create a successful healthier snacking proposition.

It sets out the five success factors of healthy snacking strategy and uses 20 Case Studies to map out in detail the product developments and strategies that companies are using to succeed in snacking.

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Recent Case Studies Dairy giant eyes up milk game-changer A decision by Dean Foods to bid for the shares of quirky and little-known Australian/New Zealand dairy company a2 Milk has the potential to take a successful down-under oddity and raise it to the level of a significant marketing challenge. read more Want a winning strategy? Learn how to be a good sailor The key trends in our industry are like the currents in the sea. You can sail with them and go far. Or you can sail against them and find yourself going nowhere except backwards – and even end up on the rocks. read more Food giant shows it can deliver a game-changer For some time it has looked as if big food companies are too large and too slow to respond to changing trends and that the future lies with nimble start-ups. read more Mars mainstreams fruit, nut and cocoa combination US chocolate giant Mars is chasing a healthier snacking constituency that originally was discovered – back in 2004 – and developed by the Kind bars startup. Mars is staying in line with the significant price premium and simple ingredients but adding its own twist, portionality. read more Health halo boosts avocado sales Avocados are on a fast track in America, with consumption rising, supply increasing and usages multiplying. The reasons for the boom in sales are several, including a lifting of import restrictions and the rise of a US Hispanic population that has grown up familiar with the fruit. But one of the most powerful factors is the health halo that avocados have taken on. read more Simple fruit snack hits the spot Having successfully snackified blueberries by giving them a resealable pack and a relatively long shelf life – a formula that’s proven a hit with US consumers – berry-growing cooperative Naturipe is tackling an even bigger challenge with on-the-go strawberries. read more Seeds of change lie in flavour innovation Big Seeds took a traditional, simple, healthy snack – in-shell sunflower seeds – with an already-loyal consumer following and innovated in flavour and distribution, a move that’s gained the brand a 50% growth in sales, and turned it into one of America’s fastest-growing snack brands. read more Natural low GI sweetener makes inroads VitaFiber aims to jolt the market for better-for-you ingredients by providing the “triple threat” of soluble dietary fibre, a prebiotic environment and low-calorie, all-natural sweetening in one highly capable and versatile isomalto-oligosaccharide. And now parent company BioNeutra North America is moving to create a robust consumer brand for VitaFiber as well, for baking and even the table top. read more
Food giant shows it can deliver a game-changer
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Food giant shows it can deliver a game-changer

It’s become fashionable among some people to say that the established food companies are too big and too slow to respond to changing trends and that the future lies with nimble start-ups.

General Mills – one of the world’s biggest food companies – is showing that in fact big companies can not only respond, they can do so in a way that potentially redefines a market.

General Mills owns Cheerios, America’s biggest breakfast cereal brand. Cheerios several years ago found itself – in common with many mass-market cereal brands – increasingly left behind by the evolution of the Key Trends, specifically:

  1. the rising consumer interest in “good carbs and bad carbs”
  2. the snackification of breakfast – which has lead to unexpected developments such as the sudden and disruptive success of Belvita
  3. more and more people self-diagnosing that gluten-free is better for their health

From its peak in 2011, when it had $1.25 billion (€1.13 billion) in sales, Cheerios has seen sales fall every year, and in the 52 weeks to June 2015 they were down to $1 billion, according to IRI supermarket scanning data.

General Mills has done many things to slow the decline of Cheerios, some of which – such as the launch of a high protein variant – have been effective. Others, such as going GMO-free, have had no positive effect on sales.

But now General Mills is changing the rules of the game. In 2015 America’s biggest breakfast cereal brand is going gluten-free. From July 2015 five gluten-free variants of Cheerios went onto supermarket shelves in America. They include Original and Honey Nut, two of the best-sellers.

With Cheerios holding an 11% share of the US breakfast cereal market, it’s a game changer.

Admittedly it’s easier for Cheerios many other brands – Cheerios have always been made entirely with oats, which are naturally gluten-free. But problems with the supply chain meant that General Mills couldn’t guarantee that products would be free of wheat, barley or rye. Simply by cleaning up the supply chain, General Mills is able to re-position its biggest brand and bring it back in line with the most powerful consumer trends.

The game-changer is that gluten-free in one move goes free from being a distinct positioning and point of difference for lots of small brands to almost a category standard.

While some consumers will still hunt out small brands, the fact is that many more will respond to the marketing power and the re-assurance of well-known brand – a brand whose identity is even more re-assuring now that it’s free-from the “bad ingredient” called gluten and the “naturally healthy” benefits of oats are easier to see and enjoy.

Increasingly often, in many categories, companies will take the same road as Cheerio, taking existing products and reinventing them as gluten-free (or whatever it is consumers want).

The repositioning of Cheerios is a reminder that it’s not just starts-ups that can change markets – when big food companies embrace new consumer trends they can take steps that redefine a market.

It’s a company’s culture that determines whether it can embrace change. But with increasing pressure from changing markets and the example of General Mills before them, many more large companies will be changing their culture so that they can better compete.

Start-ups can drive change in food and beverage markets, and have done so for a decade now. But don’t assume that they are holding all the best cards.


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Julian Mellentin

Industry Events
In-depth analysis of trends and excellent insights. The case studies provide solid market data and I refer to them often and in particular when starting new initiatives. Mary Parsons VP Global Platform Development, The Hershey Company

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I regard NNB as a reliable, unbiased source of information. Also it is one of the very few publications which try to analyze and understand markets, not only report what has happened. Kalle Leporanta Valio Ltd