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Sales of Alternative-Ingredient Snacks on the Rise

ROCKVILLE, Md. — With healthier and better-for-you snacking increasing, sales of snacks made from alternative ingredients are forecasted to rise to $1.2 billion this year, according to a new report from market research firm Packaged Facts.

Alternative ingredients include vegetables and grains such as chickpeas, sweet potatoes, kale and spinach, among other novel elements.

The strong growth of sales of alternative vegetable-based snacks — particularly salty snack versions — was the largest contributing factor to the rise in snack sales in 2016, according to Snack Nutrition Trends: Pulses, Vegetables, and Grains in Salty Snacks and Crackers. Packaged Facts estimates the salty snack segment carried the alternative-ingredient snack market in 2016 with 7-percent growth — a faster growth rate than what was seen by salty snacks as a whole.

Over the 10-year period from 2006 to 2016, the percentage of adults who usually only snack on healthy foods grew from 24 percent to 30 percent. Beyond the general uptick in healthy eating, the most important market drivers are demographics and age, specifically families with children and snackers. For any given snack category, the percentage of adults with children in the household who eat the snack is 19 percent more than the percentage of adults who eat the snack and do not have any children in the household, Packaged Facts found.

Although young families with children are important for the alternative-ingredient snack market, young consumers play an integral demographic driver. The report found a gap in percentage from millennials and Gen X adults who eat these snacks vs. consumers aged 50 and older. Novelty for the snack is a factor for millennial consumption; however, reasons why consumers choose alternative-ingredient snacks are the same across all age groups.

Younger generational cohorts who are a catalyst for growth in the alternative-ingredient snack market will increase with time as they become a greater percentage of the population and gain additional buying power, the market research firm noted. The question is whether those who are now becoming adults, like Gen Z, will follow in the footsteps of their elders, or forge a new snacking pattern.

"Looking at both present trends and towards the future, alternative-ingredient snack sales are going to continue moderate to strong growth over the next few years, building on the larger healthier-for-you trend affecting the overall snack market and on the unique flavors and textures consumers are also craving," said David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts.

Packaged Facts is a division of It publishes market intelligence on a range of consumer market topics, including: consumer demographics and shopper insights, consumer financial products and services, consumer goods and retailing, consumer packaged goods, and pet products and services.  

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