“It seems that health-and-wellness snacking used to be more on the fringe but has really made its way into more mainstream and is now part of everyday lives.”
Bio: With more than 20 years of experience in the snacking industry, John Sommer has worked on megabrands such as OREO and RITZ. He has also worked on the successful new product launches of STRIDE gum and belVita Breakfast Biscuits.
LCS: Tell us a little bit about your background and your role at Mondelēz International.
John Sommer: I graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Marketing and have spent most of my career in various insights roles at IRI, Mars and Mondelēz International. I have spent the last 11+ years in the combined companies of Cadbury, Kraft and now, Mondelēz International. Over the course of my career, I have held various analytic roles supporting the broader retail businesses. Beginning in 2012, I moved into an insights role within foodservice studying consumers' eating patterns.
LCS: Could you share a few thoughts on the rise of well-being snacking?
JS: Well-being in snacking has always been part of the snacking universe. However, in the last few years, we have seen sales growth outpace that of the broader market. It seems that health-and-wellness snacking used to be more on the fringe but has really made its way into the mainstream and is now part of everyday lives. This is being driven by a rise in awareness through the media, heightened levels of obesity, an aging population and government regulations.
LCS: How is Mondelēz International meeting the growing demand for nutritious snacks?
JS: As one of the world's largest snack companies, our plans are to also lead in the area of nutritious snacks. Specifically, by 2020 we plan to have 25% of our portfolio sales come from “better choice” snacks. We will be reducing our sodium and saturated fats by 10% and increasing our whole grains by 25%, also by 2020. Additionally, we have already placed calorie labeling on the front of packages, so consumers can be more mindful and educated in their snacking choices.*
LCS: What do you see as the biggest nutrition trends today?
JS: With only half of Americans eating three square meals a day, snacking has really filled this void. In particular, well-being snacks are having a big influence on people’s snacking choices. People are looking at two key areas when it comes to healthy snacking: what’s in a product and what’s not in a product.
Consumers are seeking out the presence of positives from foods that are heart-healthy, like those that contain whole grains. There has also been significant growth in snacks with real ingredients, as nearly half of consumers want to integrate fruit or vegetables into their snacks.
LCS: Could you give us your insights into popular segments like gluten free, whole grains, proteins, etc.?
JS: Gluten free is among the largest and fastest growing claims seen on packages of snacks. We are also seeing the emergence of GMO free, hormone free, antibiotic free, soy free and nut free. While these claims are not the largest in scale, they are among some of the fastest growing.
LCS: When it comes to nutrition, what do you think is top of mind for consumers?
JS: The “absence of negatives” leads all health claims with gluten free at the top of that list. Among the positive attributes, whole grains are top of mind.
LCS: What well-being snack trends do you foresee developing in the near future?
JS: Well-being snacks will continue to evolve through the delivery of product qualities that are good for you and through the elimination of those attributes that are perceived to be bad for you. It will be about foods that are better for you, are authentic and recognizable, are nutritious and allow permissible snacking through portion-controlled bite sizes.
LCS: Any demographic groups (baby boomers, millennials, Gen Y) that are especially interested in well-being snacks?
JS: Millennials in general are driving snack consumption more than any other age cohort. However, well-being snacks are consumed across different age groups, but for different reasons. For Gen Z, wellness aspects of snacking are important to parents, but tend to be balanced with fun and taste. Millennials look for snacks that are fresh and authentic. Gen X is a key driver of the better-for-you snacking trend and is interested in foods that help maintain energy and relieve stress, as well as ones that have cleaner ingredient lines. Boomers seek snacks that support their health and wellness goals, such as whole grain for heart health.
LCS: What makes Mondelēz International a leader in the well-being snack movement?
JS: In addition to our stated ambition, we also have a strong track record of bringing successful innovation into the well-being space with products such as belVita Breakfast Biscuits, GOOD THiNS Crackers, and our entire Enjoy Life Foods product portfolio.
LCS: What’s your advice for foodservice operators looking to boost their well-being snack business?
JS: I think it’s important to carry a broad range of different types of products in the well-being space, and picking the top-selling items based on sales and projected growth. Well-being can also mean controlling the amount of food we eat and creating snacks with appropriate portion controlled sizes, so these need to be considered also. Ultimately, you have to keep in mind that the snacks people consume need to taste good too, and with the broad array of well-being snacks in the market, this can easily be achieved.
For further insights into nutrition trends and the well-being snacking movement, read 4 Ideas to Help Drive Better-for-You Sales.
Agree with what John had to say? Disagree? Care to share your own insights? Feel free to sound off below.
*Mondelēz International, Mondelēz International Announces Global Commitments to Well-Being, March 12, 2014.