Nobody knows quite why snack foods are down, but they are and the companies who make them pledge to step up their marketing campaigns to regain lost ground. So goes the orthodox news analysis.
Interestingly, the three snack divisions--healthy, savory, sweet--show distinctly different trajectories, according to data compiled by the Wall Street Journal. Since 2010, healthy rose 10 percent to 2015 and has tumbled 6 percent since. That's a huge drop.
Sweet snacks have held fairly steady, declining 4 percent since 2010. Savory is up 2 percent since 2010. While the WSJ doesn't dive deeply into the why, one little side note is interesting: "Competition is stiff. Shoppers can now choose from an array of smaller brands and private-label snacks." To me this is a huge tip of the hat to the atomized craft branding movement.
The point is that small craft brands don't merit tracking and don't register on the radar of industry data. The companies tracked for this report are Hershey, Hostess Brands, Mondelez, PepsiCo, Kellogg, Campbell Soup, General Mills, Conagra Brands, Hain Celestial and J. M. Smucker. These are all mainline players, the fraternity of orthodoxy.
But a growing number of players aren't in that fraternity. I know our Polyface pork sticks--an incredibly healthy snack food--are not included. And the fellow we're working with to develop that snack stick, and now a beef snack stick, helps numerous artisanal brands get legal, labeled, and available. None of these registers in the big player fraternity.
Far be it from me to oppose WSJ, but I don't see any indication that snack food sales are dropping. What I see is an industrial data source unable to capture the guerilla activity nibbling around the edges of the status quo. If I had been writing this story, I would have created a sidebar at least that identified some of the minor players in this space that collectively add up to substantial market share.
The fact that healthy snacks showed the big dip is further proof that the nonregistered little players are on the attack. That savory and sweet held fairly steady confirm that the new players coming to this market are not in their sphere; the new players are doubling down on healthier. That's where the market is. And the data supports that analysis.
I think WSJ completely missed the more significant aspect of this analysis by failing to account for unaccounted sales. By relying on crony mega-businesses, the real story--the rise in micro-brands in the healthy snack sector--was completely missed. Those of us on the lunatic fringe are used to being uncounted in the mainstream media, and that's just fine because it means we can percolate under the radar, develop our customers and product, without a lot of scrutiny from the empire builders. That's actually helpful and I'm thankful to be in the uncounted fringe.
What's your favorite healthy snack? Hint: the Polyface pork stick. ha!