Over his lengthy career in the snack foods industry, James Lacey, a Westlake Village entrepreneur and business leader, has seen many trends come and go. From his experience as the founder and CEO of Crunchies Natural Food Company in Westlake Village, California, Jim knows that consumers are demanding natural products more than ever before.
Prepared foods manufacturers, particularly in the baked goods and snack foods markets, have reacted to the demands of consumers for more natural ingredients. Industry buzzwords like “locally sourced”, “organic”, and “healthy nutrition” have captivated the snack foods industry over the past five years, and experts are predicting that these product labels will continue to have a greater impact in 2017.
Consumers around the world have been clamoring for natural ingredients, and snack foods producers have begun to explore the addition of these ingredients into existing product lines as well as in launching new products. This is especially true in the snacks targeted towards consumers engaged in healthy lifestyles. Nutritional supplements products like protein bars and nutrient-rich foods have enjoyed explosive growth in recent years. Athletes and people interested in leading healthier, more active lives have shied away from artificial ingredients and colors. As a reaction, snack foods manufacturers have begun to source natural alternatives.
Organic ingredients, in particular, have achieved mainstream market penetration in the snack foods business. These natural ingredients are free of harmful pesticide and artificial fertilizer residues and add a new dimension of flavor to many products. As a sales and product development expert, Jim Lacey has seen organic ingredients come to the forefront of consumer awareness in recent years. He says that consumer demand has spurred the addition of these ingredients in everything from prepared meals to snacks on-the-go.
The local sourcing movement has also had a tremendous impact on the food preparation industry, even in the snack foods market niche. No longer are consumers content with ingredients sourced from foreign countries with questionable food hygiene standards; ingredients grown locally to food manufacturing facilities are in high demand. This interest in locally- grown and processed ingredients is a natural offshoot to the “farm to table” trend, and the quality of ingredients has improved across the board. James Lacey says that by raising ingredients locally, transportation costs are slashed, handling and damage of ingredients is reduced, and the nutritional values have increased.
Finally, flavor has taken center stage. A 2014 study by a food industry trends group indicated that consumers’ palates have become more sophisticated in the past several years. Ingredient flavors like almonds, berries, and coconut have increased market share in nutritional snack products like energy bars, drink mixes, and snack packages. Nuts represent a sustainable protein source, while berries and other dried fruits add critical antioxidants to the mix while boosting flavor. Exotic flavors like spice and herbs have also rejuvenated existing brands, and many new product lines have been introduced that showcase these flavors from around the world.
James Lacey, Crunchies Natural Food Company co-founder and consumer packaged goods industry expert, knows that the snack food industry cannot rest on its laurels. It must respond to consumer demand and ensure that healthy, sustainable, and flavorful ingredients must be part of food production initiatives.