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Snacks have taken center stage in American eating, according to the "Snack Foods Culinary Trend Mapping Report" from the Center for Culinary Development (CCD) and Packaged Facts. The study shows time-crunched Americans now turn to snacks as meal stand-ins, to fuel on-the-go lifestyles and stave off energy crashes. And as snacks grow in importance, consumers want bigger bang for their snacking buck, such as vivid flavor, quality ingredients and pumped-up nutrition.
"Snacks are less and less the hunger-soothing bridge between formal meals," said CCD CEO Kimberly Egan. "They have become valuable gastronomical events in their own right, especially as consumers demand more from their snacks."
Meal-replacement snackers are reportedly craving varied and vibrant flavors from their snacks as well as punches of protein, fiber and vitamins that yield performance benefits.
The study pointed out that better-for-you snacks, such as alternative chips made from beets, sweet potatoes and cassava, have hit the scene with a perception of healthfulness. Crispy vegetable snacks, made from green beans, soybeans and chickpeas, are also gaining in popularity, thanks to their "minimally processed/maximum nutrition" persona, along with offering crunch and salty, spicy flavors.
Generation Y snackers were said to have discovered umami -- highly nutritious seaweed snacks -- while their parents are reportedly drawn to new sweets made with whole grains and other healthful ingredients.
New premium snacks, like popcorn made with flavors such as curry and black truffle, are said to replicate "creative nibbles" found in trendy bars and restaurants. High-quality pork rinds illustrate the "real meat" trend, and nuts that capture the exotic flavors of global cuisines are meeting the needs of today's snacking customers.