Organic is a term synonymous with fresh, high quality foods that are free of harmful additives. Over the last twenty years, the consumer demand for organic foods has steadily increased, and thus the range of available options has grown exponentially. In fact, it’s one of the fastest growing segments of the food industry, with sales growing from $3.7 billion in 1997 to more than $43 billion in 2015, according to a recent report by the The Environmental Working Group. The fresh food spaces like dairy and produce have contributed quite a bit to this, because they are staples we can easily imagine making that “farm to table” transition. Yet, one of the most highly demanded organic categories right now is snacks. Lots of on-the-go snacking options are highly processed – the ingredients required to preserve, color and flavor them are often a far cry from natural, let alone organic. However, busy lifestyles with a health conscious mindset have set the desire for quick and healthy food options at an all time high.
Ahead of the Game
The organic snacking movement gained a lot of its momentum in the form of small companies with big personalities, often breaking away from their conventional competitors with unique offerings. There continues to be a huge space for these types of brands. Hippeas are satisfyingly crunchy and savory snack featuring an unconventional chief ingredient: chickpeas. Similarly, Barnana pushes boundaries with good-for-you indulgence in the form of “upcycled bananas”. Both are focused on sustainability and conscious eating. By consistently finding ways to bring unique options to the table, companies are keeping organic as fresh as ever.
As these types of products have gained popularity, big players inevitably started to take notice. Annie’s, the friendly brand that brought us a myriad of bunny shaped organic snacks, was acquired by General Mills in 2014. This was initially met with some opposition from their customer base, but nearly 70% of the brand’s portfolio will be certified organic by the end of the year, up from about 35% when it sold. (Food Business News). While Justin’s Nut Butter was sold to Hormel in 2016, the company has been continuing to produce innovative and organic products, with the streamlined efficiency of operating under a food industry giant. This kind of action brings organic even further to the forefront of U.S. households.
Long standing conventional food brands are also being forced to consider making their own organic product extensions. Gatorade’s G Organic is a newly released spin on the original sports drink, boasting just seven simple ingredients. Though USDA Organic Certified, the G Organic line of drinks is criticized for its high sugar content. Each 16.9-ounce bottle carries a whopping seven teaspoons of added sugar – more than the six-teaspoon daily limit recommended by the American Heart Association (New York Times). Frito-Lay has released Simply Organic Doritos, which are free of the artificial flavors and colors that characterize the popular snack. Yet, when comparing the nutritional value of conventional and organic varieties, there isn’t too great of a difference. This calls into question whether consumers are seeing the value in simply consuming certified organic snacks, or snacks that offer more health benefits.
It’s clear that companies of all sizes are seeing a bright future in organic snacking. Its increasing availability to consumers of all economic ranges is opening up tons of possibilities. How will brands start adjusting to this new climate, now that everyone’s going organic? Will the certification of organic begin to lose its association with health and wellbeing? We suspect that this increase in organic snacking will only heighten the trend of touting positive nutritional information such as high fiber, or low sugar content on packaging.