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Indulgent, portable items satisfy snack cravings

Restaurants innovate, shrink and customize menu items to meet consumers’ snack demands.


Operators see success in portable snacks

Snacking is gaining popularity and operators that are leveraging this opportunity are seeing the impact. In this gallery we share creative portable snack options and tips for your operation.

Protein is still on-trend

Starbucks offers the Protein Bistro Box, which contains a hard-boiled cage free egg, sliced tart apples, grapes, and white Cheddar cheese served with multigrain muesli bread and honeyed peanut butter, for a total of 13 grams of protein. According to the website, egg whites contain 40 different proteins. Starbucks also offers a bistro box that features the Edamame Hummus Wrap, which contains edamame hummus with sweet bell peppers, zucchini, spinach, and garlic-herb cheese on a spinach tortilla. Paired with roasted tomato sauce and sesame-flax crackers, the snack contains 7 grams of protein.

Tip: Food and beverage combination snacks comprise the greatest percentage of snack purchases1. Advertise suggested food and drink combinations.
(Image source: Starbucks)

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Customization

#getfried® fry café, a quick serve snack eatery based in Buffalo, N.Y., offers a choice of fries, with various protein selections as a topping, and dozens of choices of seasonings, sauces and even sweets. “Two of our best sellers are our 716 (choice of fries topped with shredded chicken, smothered in Franks Buffalo Hot Sauce and Ken's Blue Cheese) and our Texas Cheese Fries, choice of fries topped with melted Cheddar cheese, crispy bacon, chili powder and fresh chives,” says Chris Covelli, founder and managing partner for #GETFRIED USA & Franchise Group.

Tip: Allow customers to create their own snack, for example, offer a choice of proteins or sauces.
(Image source #get fried)

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Offer a familiar brand

Checkers offers the OREO® Fudge Sundae Stacker, a dessert that can also serve as a sweet snack. The item features alternating layers of rich hot fudge, creamy vanilla & chocolate swirl soft serve and OREO® cookie crumbles served in a cup to make the treat easy to eat on the go.

Tip: Branded mix-ins create nostalgic and fun flavors. Consumers, especially children, love OREO®s. According to the market research firm Smarty Pants, in its 2015 Young Love study of over 7,000 kids and their parents, OREO® was the top on the list of Kids' Most Loved Brands, beating out the 2014 number one brand, iPad.
(Image source: Checkers, OREO® Fudge Sundae Stacker)

Hybrids

In DK’s Donuts & Bakery in Santa Monica, Calif., the Double Decker O-Nut is a twist on the donut and croissant combination. “These delicious hybrids are the best sellers at our store 24/7/365,” says Mayly Tao, co-owner. “Los Angeles is a growing area for foodies and people who want to satisfy their sweet tooth at our version of donut heaven.” There are also Wow-Nuts, a half waffle and half-donut hybrid with cinnamon sugar, homemade whipped cream, and fresh strawberries; and ice cream sandwiches in donuts, Wow-Nuts or O-Nuts.

Tip:Be creative. Think outside the container for creative snack carriers.
(Image Source: DK’s Donuts )

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Variety is key

When passengers have a long layover, they tend to sit down for a meal at an airport restaurant, but if they want a snack, they will stop at a kiosk, says Jeff Call, corporate chef for Concessions International. The Atlanta-based company has operations in eight airports around the country and the Caribbean. The kiosks have a tremendous variety of snacks, from healthful kale chips and tropical nut mixes to fun parfaits that feature Greek yogurt, granola and berries.

Tip: Be sure to include some allergen-free items, such as chips without gluten and cereals without nuts.
(Image source: Thinkstock)

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Be super with superfoods

Cosi, a Mediterranean-sytle restaurant based in Boston, MA, offers a chia shot, which is a pudding parfait snack that has chia seeds, coconut milk and low-fat yogurt. The chia shot is available in guava, Nutella®, or cappuccino. Chia seeds are a superfood and contain calcium, magnesium and fiber.

Tip: Balance nutrition with indulgence. Consumers are gravitating toward healthful foods, but it’s always fun to add a topping, or to have an ingredient such as a pudding or sorbet dessert mix-in.
(Image source: Cosi)

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Bowling for nutrition

At BCB Company in San Diego, the Açai Bowl features the Authentic Brazilian Blend, Organic Sambazon Acai blended thick and topped with fresh strawberries, bananas, granola and honey. The Pitaya Bowl has organic raw pitaya, which is a fruit from cactus, blended thick and topped with fresh strawberries, bananas, granola & honey.

Tip: Appeal to millennials and other adventurous eaters with exotic, less well-known fruits.
(Image source: BCB Company)

What’s for dinner (or breakfast or lunch)? was once the familiar refrain. These days busy, on-the-go consumers are singing a different tune, asking what’s for snack? Savvy restaurant operators are responding to consumers’ new eating habits with an array of portable snacks and easy indulgences, including downsized versions of menu favorites, customizable treats and more.

According to Mintel’s 2015 snack report, Snacking Motivations and Attitudes in the US, 94 percent of adults snack, the majority about two to three times per day, and 70 percent agree that just about anything can be considered a snack.

A growing portion of that snacking is happening at restaurants and other commercial foodservice operations. According to a February 2016 snack survey conducted by Penton Research, 43 percent of commercial respondents report an increase in snack sales in the last two years.

Tampa, Fla.-based Checkers and Rally's are among the many restaurant brands upping their snacking game. “Portable and poppable” has become the mantra at both brands for a number of years now. They have more than a dozen offerings that fit this focus, including Fully Loaded Fries, Monsterella Stix, OREO® Fudge Sundae Stacker, and Caramel Cheesecake Crunch with Twix® Loaded Milkshake. The brands also recently introduced their newest portable dessert item, Fruit & Cream Smoothies available in strawberry, mango or orange cream.

“We started referring to the hot trend towards things that are easier to eat on the go as “portable and poppable” about five years ago,” said Terri Snyder, Checkers & Rally's Restaurants’ Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President. “We made a strategic effort at the time to focus much of our menu R&D process on items that fit in this category, and the trend has only increased since. We’ve definitely seen a sales benefit to offering these types of items.”

Checkers and Rally’s are also getting a sales boost from the use of branded ingredients in their snack offerings. According to the Penton report, nearly half of commercial operators surveyed said they incorporate branded ingredients or prepackaged branded items into their snack and dessert offerings.

“We added branded desserts about five years ago and the OREO® Fudge Sundae Stacker and OREO® Shake have been a big hit,” said Snyder. “Consumers told us that the brand is very important and that it can influence their purchase, so the value added by having the brand attached is huge.”

Buffalo, NY-based #getfried® fry café, a new fast casual concept with two locations, specializes in customizable and portable gourmet-topped French fries.

“The design of our concept allows guests to choose from five different types of French fry styles and over 20 toppings, sauces and seasonings, or to choose from the signature creations we’ve created for them,” said Chris Covelli, co-founder of #getfried. “Our customers also enjoy the portability of the dish, allowing them to have a satisfying, indulgent snack while on the go.”

Also driving purchase behavior at #getfried is the use of branded ingredients. For example, one of the concept’s most popular items is the Southern Comfort, made with pulled pork covered in Sweet Baby Ray's Original BBQ sauce, over a choice of fry.

Already offering a popular snack—soft pretzels in a variety of flavor profiles—Philadelphia, PA-based Philly Pretzel Factory has been exploring how to offer its customers even more snack options. The soft pretzel chain is currently testing mini pretzel dogs, a snack-sized version of their popular pretzel dogs, at 13 locations.

“We decided to try the mini pretzel dogs because both franchisee and customer feedback seemed to show that there was a lot of interest in the product,” said Philly Pretzel Factory Marketing Manager Adam Terranova. “We currently have pretzel dogs already on the menu, but we're also exploring other mini options right now by taking some of our other product lines and shrinking them down in size.”

Terranova said the success of the mini pretzel dogs so far indicates a systemwide launch December 1 is highly likely.

Also exploring smaller, snack-sized versions of its popular offerings is Starbucks. Last spring the coffee giant introduced the Mini Frappuccino, a 10-ounce version of its signature frozen beverage, as a limited time offer.

With snacking proving to be a long term shift in the way consumers eat, the demand for snacks isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon. Restaurant operators who want to grow sales should start exploring ways to “snackify” their menus, sooner rather than later.



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1. Penton Research Study, Mondelez Snack Trends, February 2016