It seems like these days, you can barely swing a gluten-free salami around an organic grocery store without knocking over a vegan ice cream pop-up. Healthy snacks are all the rage, with recent numbers reflecting the public’s awakening to better food choices.
According to a report by Packaged Facts, a leading publisher of market research in the food, beverage, consumer packaged goods and demographic sectors, the compound growth rate of healthy snack sales outpaced the overall food and beverage market by 4.7 percent in 2015. The report estimates that number will rise above 5 percent in 2016, with sales expected to climb to $20.3 billion.
At Natural Products Expo East, a scaled down version of the massive west coast conference, over 28,000 attendees turned up to demo the latest and greatest across the health food industry. The trend, as they say, is here to stay. And of course, producers are hopping on the bandwagon in droves, creating snack food options that are truly raising the bar.
Below, we take a look at four budding makers who’ve caught our eye with their nutrition-powered goodies.
Drew Anderson and Luke Visnic started Cleveland Kraut, a raw, fermented sauerkraut — Photo courtesy of Cleveland Kraut
What is it? Cleveland Kraut is a raw, fermented sauerkraut, rich in probiotics, nutrients and flavor. Six bold varieties appeal to everyone from the staunch vegan yogi to the craft beer-loving BBQ head.
Why it’s great: This isn’t your grandma’s kraut. Sure, it’s rooted in old-world fermentation methods, but the guys behind Cleveland Kraut have pulled this classic concoction into the modern age with flavors including Gnar Gnar with jalapeno peppers and chili sauce, and Curry Kraut, a blend that incorporates another superfood of the moment: turmeric. Plus, anything that tastes this good and amps up good gut bugs at the same time deserves a round of applause.
Why Cleveland Kraut cares about creating a healthy product: “Since the beginning, we’ve taken immense pride in providing customers with a product that tastes good, will actually make them healthier, and one they can have fun with,” says Cleveland Kraut co-owner, Mac Anderson. “At the end of the day, it’s extremely rewarding knowing that each jar we make has the potential to bring the happiness and joy of shared, delicious foods and also provide amazing health benefits.”
Healthy buzzwords: Non-GMO, probiotic, vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free
Meredith Gray founded KiiNOA!, a superfood snack company based around quinoa — Photo courtesy of KiiNOA!
What is it? KiiNOA! is a superfood snack company that reinvents the fun, indulgent treats you grew up eating. Think Cheetos, Cinnamon Toast Crunch or the iconic Snyder pretzel, recreated using nutritious quinoa.
Why it’s great: Who doesn’t love a good cheese ball…or 30? But the guilt that comes after crushing a bag is palpable. Enter KiiNOA! These bite-sized snacks pack the punch of nostalgia while still nourishing us from the inside out. Win-win.
Why KiiNOA! cares about creating a healthy product: “I love snacks! Chips, popcorn, cereal for dinner...I was working late nights at my corporate job and was snacking a lot on some "healthy" items that were actually filled with sugar, sodium and calories,” says KiiNOA! founder, Meredith Gray. “I wanted to create healthy, tasty snacks that are accessible in both taste and price because I think it’s incredibly important to make healthy food accessible to more people.”
Healthy buzzwords: Gluten-free, non-GMO, certified kosher, soy-free, nut-free
Alexander Harik, the founder of Zesty Z, a Mediterranean za'atar condiment and spread — Photo courtesy of Zesty Z
What is it? Zesty Z™ is a new Mediterranean spread and condiment. It's made with za'atar, which is dried, wild Mediterranean thyme, extra virgin olive oil and a variety of other herbs and spices.
Why it’s great: From Zesty’s eccentric founder, Alexander Harik, to this za’atar blend’s extreme versatility, there’s not much here to dislike. It wouldn’t be out of place at breakfast, lunch, dinner – or obviously snack time – on things like eggs, popcorn, salmon and Greek yogurt. And you can check Harik out on Snapchat for a behind-the-scenes of what it takes to start a food biz, or what he's coined "The Zesty Hustle."
Why Zesty Z cares about creating a healthy product: “It’s how I was raised. My parents, despite their hectic work schedules, made it a point to eat well-rounded meals all together,” says Harik. “Also, it feels great to treat your body right. Inspiring consumers to make healthier food choices with an awesome new Mediterranean flavor is winning.”
Healthy buzzwords: Vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and all natural
Chirps Cricket Chips
Laura D'Asaro and Rose Wang, the founder of Chirps, the world's first chip made with cricket flour. — Photo courtesy of Chirps Cricket Chips
What is it? Chirps are the first ever cricket chip, made with stone ground corn, beans, chia seeds and cricket flour. Cricket flour comes from dried crickets that are milled into a powder.
Why it’s great: Aside from their hilarious tagline – “Eat What Bugs You” – one serving of these babies has as much protein as an egg white and contains 30 percent less fat than regular potato chips. They also taste like Doritos. So, uh, delicious, and not at all weird or buggy. Best of all, they’re a sustainable form of protein – crickets use 2000x less water than beef to produce equal amounts of meat.
Why Chirps Cricket Chips cares about creating a healthy product: "We don't just see Chirps as another healthy product – we see it as a way to introduce a whole new healthy food group,” says Laura D’Asaro, Chirps’ co-founder. “We realized insects could be a game-changing protein source...if we could get people to eat them. But in much of the world, insects are considered a normal food source, even a delicacy. In fact, more people eat insects than speak English.”
Healthy buzzwords: Gluten-free, sustainable, high in protein