10 Big Snack Trends for the Year and Beyond

The snack aisle just isn’t what it used to be. Once dominated by chocolate and potato chips, it is increasingly home to better-for-you snack brands. And rightfully so.

Sales of natural products have grown by $63 billion in the past 10 years. In the convenience industry, those numbers are up 14%—more than any cross-channel competitor, according to data from Chicago-based SPINS.

Convenience Store Products editors took note of the better-for-you trend—and several others—that crossed their desks this year. Here are 10 that caught their eyes.

1. Snacking for a cause

Live Love Pop

More consumers, especially millennials, are gravitating toward brands that support social causes. Snacks are no exception. Live Love Pop highlights a different charity on each flavor of its “guilt-free” popcorn and donates to the charities as part of its Selfless Snacking Campaign. Another brand, Yumbutter, has a “buy one, feed one” business model in which it feeds a child in need for every purchase of its nut butters.

2. Down to the root

Cassava Crunch Chips

The latest innovation in chips is cassava, also known as yuca root. Plant Snacks offers Cassava Crunch Chips in flavors such as kale, sea salt, seeds and cheddar. The plant-based chips are free of gluten, grain, corn and trans fats. Terrafina’s Mirabel Savor Spain brand also has a cassava option among its line of all-natural vegetable chips made with extra-virgin olive oil.

3. Pork-rind redux

Small Batch Pork Rinds

Innovation in the meat-snacks category has been fast-paced and plentiful, and behind it all are the cracklins, the chicharrones—the pork rind. This protein-packed snack isn’t new, but the flavors sure are. Small Batch Pork Rinds from Southern Recipe are fried in sunflower oil and come in four unique flavors: Korean Kimchi BBQ, Spicy Dill, Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper and Pineapple Ancho Chile.

4. Under-the-sea snacks

GimMe’s

Packed with vitamins and minerals, seaweed hits squarely on the better-for-you snacking trend. And because it can be grown in saltwater, without pesticides or fertilizers, it’s eco-friendly and sustainable. GimMe makes a line of roasted, organic seaweed crisps.

5. Feeling the pulse

Hippeas

Chickpeas are high in protein and fiber and can be prepared in a variety of ways, including puffed (Hippeas) and roasted (GoBitos). And with flavors running the gamut from sweet to savory, they’re ideal for a healthy and versatile snack. Also emerging are lentils, a fellow member of the pulse family, in crunchy snacks such as Good Natured Lentil Twists.

6. Obscene heat

Paqui Chips

These snacks may make eyes water, but that's by design. Paqui Chips, a line from Amplify Snack Brands, recently acquired by Hershey, has followed up its limited-time, uber-spicy Reaper Chip promotion with flavors that can be found on shelves all year. Varieties such as Roasted Jalapeno, Haunted Ghost Pepper and Grilled Habanero are packed with so much heat and flavor, adventurous consumers are burning through them—one chip at a time.

7. A flavor to celebrate

Hammond's Brands' Mellow Fluffs

For consumers, every day can now be their birthday, with birthday-cake flavors appearing in protein bars, popcorn and more. Oh Yeah Nutrition offers its One protein bar, consisting of 20 grams of protein, in a Birthday Cake variety; Toad-Ally Snax has its Birthday Cake Popcorn; and Hammond’s Brands’ Mellow Fluffs line of snacking marshmallows comes in Birthday Cake.

8. More than a hint of lime

The New Primal Cilantro Lime

Jessica Jones-Dille, director of the savory and snack category for Mane Inc., a flavor and fragrance producer in France, said citrus flavors such as lime are seeing growing interest from consumers. Sure enough, the flavor has showed up in all kinds of snacks, from Natura Plantain Chips to The New Primal Cilantro Lime meat sticks.

9. Rave for rice

Rice Up’s line of gluten-free Brown Rice Chips

Noted for having less fat than potato chips, rice chips are being pegged as a healthier alternative for consumers seeking a crunchy snack. Rice Up’s line of gluten-free Brown Rice Chips are made with olive oil. The chips come in seven flavors, including cheese, barbecue, ketchup and paprika. Another line, Sticky-Rice Chips from Dang Foods, is made with Thai sticky rice, which is soaked in watermelon juice before being crisped. They come in Original Recipe, Sriracha Spice and Coconut Crunch.

10. Crispy fruit chips

Martin’s Crispy Apple Chips

Alternative vegetable snacks have been making snack waves for a few years. It’s not hard to find a bag of sweet potato, green bean or carrot chips on store shelves. Pushing the chip needle further, manufacturers debuted fruit chips. Made of dried fruit, but crispy like a chip, Martin’s Crispy Apple Chips have no added sugar, fat or preservatives. They’re also gluten-free.