Crunch Time: Healthy Snack Chips Change the Game

Dang Foods Retail DisplayPhoto Courtesy of Dang Foods

Simple ingredients and minimal processing give fruit and vegetable chips a healthy halo without sacrificing texture or taste.

When it comes to snacking, the words “chips” and “healthy” have not always fit so well together. Healthy snacks have always been available in produce aisles in the form of whole fruits and vegetables, but even health conscious consumers crave the salty taste and crispy texture of chips. They also want less oil, preservatives and artificial flavors. Potato and corn-based chips have long dominated the snack segment, but fruit and vegetable chips, baked or toasted to crunchy, healthy perfection, are on the rise. While their presence in produce departments is growing, retailers would do well to incorporate a few marketing strategies and promotional tools to make sure these healthy snacks end up in shopping carts along with whole fruits and vegetables.

Accentuate the Positive

Bare Brand Apple ChipsAmerican diets are changing from three main meals to as many as five smaller meals per day, and healthy, convenient snacking is growing to meet demand. Vincent Kitirattragarn, founder and chief executive of Dang Foods, based in Berkeley, CA, understands this. “Dang coconut chips and onion chips are healthy, grab-and-go snacks that utilize minimal ingredients and processing for versatile snacking occasions,” he says.

With this in mind, it’s easy to see why the produce department naturally lends itself to this type of product. As Kitirattragarn explains, “Produce is a great home for us — because of our stand-up pouch, you can put us anywhere.” Kitirattragarn points out that this allows retailers to increase revenue without increasing square footage.

To further assist, Dang Foods sells shippers to produce departments and provides branded wire racks to make the best use of available space. Dang chips are made from coconut meat soaked in brine for eight hours then baked as they dehydrate. Consumers appreciate the process as an alternative to frying. “The result is a golden-brown, slightly caramelized chip that has a fantastic crunchy texture and explodes with flavor,” says Kitirattragarn.

“Consumers head to the produce department for real, wholesome fruits and vegetables that help them and their families live a healthier lifestyle,” says Coconut ChipsDana Ginsburg, director of marketing at Bare Snacks. The San Francisco-based company offers a line of baked fruit chips made from apples, bananas and coconuts. “Our snacks, which contain nothing artificial and no preservatives, bring a better-for-you option to the produce aisle that’s also convenient, easy and satisfies consumers’ crunchy snack cravings with the goodness of fruit.”

Superfoods come to the rescue for consumers looking for fruits and vegetables with the most vitamin and nutrient bang for their buck. This is something Zach Adelman, founder and chief executive of Navitas Naturals, knows well. Based in Novato, CA, his line of superfood products have put a welcome spin on the traditional chip.

“All of our superfoods are minimally processed and provide consumers an opportunity to discover some of the most nutrient-dense foods on earth,” says Adelman. Navitas Naturals achieves the chewy texture of its coconut chips by drying the thinly cut and seasoned slices at a low temperature.

Educating Consumers

The average consumer may not think to look to the produce department for chips, and retailers may view this as a challenge. It’s also an opportunity, as Ginsburg points out: “It’s important for retailers to catch shoppers’ attention and drive awareness of offerings, which is why we offer in-store displays to prominently merchandise Bare Snacks.”

Ginsburg recommends retailers merchandise Bare Snacks products next to their fresh fruit counterparts. Shelf talkers or danglers can be used to highlight attributes such as non-GMO and gluten-free. Bare gives retailers and consumers a little extra help delivering a message that’s hard-to-miss. “Our new packaging better communicates our dedication to simple, clean ingredients with striking real fruit visuals that put the simplicity of our snacks front and center.”

Proudly proclaiming clean ingredients on packaging is great, but retailers can further tout the healthy aspects of fruit and veggie chips. “Merchandise and label them as organic, non-GMO, gluten-free and vegan to help educate consumers,” says Janice Greenwald, vice president of marketing at Rhythm Superfood based in Austin, TX.

“They can go one step further to develop promotional materials educating about the nutrient-dense vegetables, the dehydration process, how we maintain the potency of the raw vegetable with our process, and the additional ingredients we use to add even more fiber and protein.” Rhythm’s Kale Chips, Broccoli Bites, and Beet Chips are dehydrated using air-crisp technology while its Roasted Kale Chips are roasted in an oven.

“The guesswork has been taken out of Navitas Naturals superfoods,” says Adelman. “All of our foods are plant-based, organic, non-GMO, gluten-free and free from any artificial ingredients.” He recommends retailers feature Navitas Naturals in displays and endcaps cross-merchandised with other items, such as almond milk, bananas, dried berries, nuts and seeds for use in smoothies. On or around salad bars is another prime spot to help consumers make that health halo shine.

Arthur Pergament, chief executive of Brad’s Raw Foods, headquartered in Pipersville, PA, says, “Retailers should promote minimally processed, nutrient-dense foods through educational events such as nutritional classes and cooking classes designed to educate the public and bring awareness to brands like Brad’s.” Brad’s vegetable chips use no artificial flavors, fillers or pastes and are slowly air crisped at low temperatures to preserve nutrients and live enzymes.

Eating Tips‭ ‬&‭ ‬Recipes

Roasted Kale Smoky BaconDisplaying baked and toasted fruit and vegetable chips next to smoothie ingredients and salad bars is a great first step, but creative retailers can deliver the point home by offering consumers eating tips and recipes. Some ideas come from the consumers themselves. “We love the creativity of our Bare fans,” says Ginsburg.

Bare consumers use their chips to top salads, yogurt and cereal, as well as to add texture and crunch to baked goods. “Bare chips also add a surprising crunch to sandwiches and pair great with spreads like nut butter. The options are endless,” says Ginsburg. The Bare Snacks website provides recipes.

Navitas also features recipes and eating tips on its website for consumers looking for ways to incorporate superfoods into their diets. This can help retailers devise cross-merchandising strategies as well. Some superfoods, like chia seeds, can be easily made into pudding while others such as goji berries can be added to oatmeal, smoothies and tea.

“Our customers have been very creative by taking snacking to a whole new level,” says Pergament. “We’ve seen our products used as seasonings, salad toppings, soup toppings, smoothie bowl toppings, entree enhancers, kids snacks, hiking treats and beach treats.”

Merchandising Maneuvers

The healthy aspects of baked and toasted chips give retailers options for merchandising in ways that are both straightforward and inventive. Greenwald at Rhythm Superfoods suggests a permanent display of vegetable and fruit snacks paired together to create a real shopping destination. “Consumers are so confused regarding where to find these snacks,” says Greenwald. “If we can create a section in the store that’s dedicated to this category of snacks that’s rapidly growing, it will be a win for consumers and retailers.”

Kitirattragarn also endorses this concept. “Creating a healthy-snacking destination in produce is key to increasing basket size. People won’t buy healthy snacks like dried fruit and nuts if they cannot find them. The best is a display at the front of the produce area with several packaged snacks that hit on key trends: dried fruit, kale chips, seaweed, coconut chips and onion chips.”

“Creating a healthy-snacking destination in produce is key to increasing basket size. People won’t buy healthy snacks like dried fruit andnuts if they cannot find them.”

— Vincent Kitirattragarn, Dang Foods

Ginsburg recommends in-store displays that prominently merchandise Bare Snacks. “Cross-merchandising Bare Snacks next to their respective fruit is a simple tactic to introduce consumers to a new way of enjoying their favorite fruit. Our snacks can be easily cross-promoted with clip strips or rack placements. We also recommend cross-department opportunities that give consumers ideas for snack pairings, such as Bare Apple Chips near the cheese case or Bare Banana Chips by the nut butters.” Ginsburg also recommends in-store demos to allow consumers the opportunity to experience the full flavor and crunch of the chips.

“People are interested in using clean, easy-to-understand ingredients to support their healthy diet and lifestyle,” says Adelman. “Superfoods are versatile in culinary applications such as with smoothie making, mixing in cereals or yogurt, topping salads or baking, and they can be cross-merchandised with complementary products. Superfoods can also be viewed as and merchandised for their functional and supplement-like qualities — they contain naturally occurring high levels of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.”

Brad’s offers shipper displays to retailers that can be placed in produce as a center aisle or endcap, says Pergament. “Cross-promotion of the broccoli and kale lines can be done effectively by promoting with salads, soups, and even illustrating the snacks as a lunch replacement — since by comparative weight they are equivalent to a huge salad and much less expensive.”