Trail Mix: Healthy Snacks on the Rise

Whether they are sold in small packages for snacks or in volume for special events, trail mix benefit from the trend toward healthier eating.

The demand for convenient, nutritious snacks is here to stay.

Originally printed in the March 2023 issue of Produce Business.

Trail mixes should enjoy annual growth approaching 13% because of the demand for healthy, on-the-go snacks, forecasts the London-based global market research firm Technav.

“Forget about the power nap — we have the power snack!” says Avan Allen, category manager for bulk grocery at Natural Grocers, Lakewood, CO. “The premium quality nuts, seeds and trail mixes our bulk department is known for come in convenient snack packs ready to energize you anytime, anywhere. On a trek, on a plane, at your desk — they’ll even fit in your back pocket.”

The all-organic Natural Grocers store that Margaret and Phillip Isely started in 1955 with $200 has grown into a chain of 166 stores in 21 states.

Although the lion’s share of this estimated $11 billion-plus growth in trail mix sales will be to individuals who want small packages of nutritious food, trail mix can also be served at social events.

“During holiday seasons such as November-December, sales are usually up due to parties,” says Stephanie Blackwell, president and chief executive of Aurora Products, Orange, CT. “The Super Bowl is also a great time for sales of trail mixes, especially for the bigger-sized packages.”

Whether they are sold in small packages for snacks or in volume for special events, trail mix benefits from the trend toward healthier eating.

Blackwell started Aurora Products a quarter century ago in a small warehouse space financed by personal credit cards, after deciding there was a need for organic and natural nut, dried fruit and granola products.

“Aurora’s niche is organics,” says Blackwell.


Trail mixes benefit from the widespread increase in healthier eating, and retailers who want to follow that trend should consider adding new or promoting existing trail mix products in the produce department. That’s because people who shop for produce are likely more interested in healthy eating — especially healthy snacks.

Trail mixes also tap into high protein diets.

“The increase in health and weight consciousness among consumers has led to a shift in eating preferences, mostly toward healthy and nutritious food products,” according to Mordor Intelligence, a Telanga, India-based business management consulting firm.

“These trail mixes have emerged as a healthier option because they do not contain artificial ingredients, are not overly processed and contain negligible sugar.”

The demand for portable healthy snacks is so strong that even products related to trail mix are enjoying steady growth.

“We don’t do trail mix, but we do 1.5-ounce almond tube snack packs,” says Darryl Bollack, western regional sales manager at Mariani Nut Co., Winters, CA. “Snack almonds are continuing to grow every year.” Mariani almond snack tubes are available in eight flavors — plain; roasted and salted; sweet BBQ; hickory smoke; wasabi and soy; chipotle and adobo; cinnamon twist; and honey roasted.

Other nutrient-dense snacks merchandise well with trail mix.

“Meat sticks, jerky and nutrition bars as well as any other on-the-go hiking/camping type products are great cross promotions with trail mixes,” says Allen. “And let’s not forget dried fruit in here, as well. It’s a huge go-to snack for bulk year-round, but we also tend to see increases in the summer.”

Trail mixes can be an impulse item, so placing them on their own rack in a second location in the product department can boost sales. Consider putting nuts, dried fruit and trail mixes together, since many times consumers will grab multiple items, adding to the ticket total.

Savvy retailers will also add trail mix near the checkout aisles, where shoppers can grab a healthy snack instead of that candy bar.

Many supermarkets see this healthy snack product as providing a halo they want attached to their brand name.

“Most chains are leaning more and more toward private labeled trail mixes,” says Blackwell. “Some use our title while others assign their own title for the trail mix.”

Natural Grocers proudly puts its name on most of the store’s trail mix products.

“We have 14 Natural Grocers bulk trail mixes in our refrigerated bulk sections that our customers love,” says Allen. “One of our most popular flavors is ‘Margaret’s Mix’ — named after our co-founder, Margaret Isely.”

Global demand for trail mix is concentrated in the U.S. and Canada, as Technavio estimates 37% of the $11.3 billion in forecast growth by 2026 will be in North America.

Prospects for a continuing supply of trail mix products look good.

“At this point, we’re not aware of any supply chain issues for the trail mixes,” says Allen. “We’d like to say we have a crystal ball’s insight into supply chain and/or pricing, but this can be unpredictable.”