How the Snack and Side Dish Categories are Shifting

For a while now, we have noticed an interesting trend blooming across the snack and side dish categories. Products that traditionally contain heavy starches (potatoes, corn, rice) have been slowly incorporating more nutrient-rich vegetables, and for some items, these vegetables have replaced starches entirely.

The trend really began picking up serious steam two years ago, when Oprah Winfrey launched ‘O, That’s Good’. This line of comfort foods included “hidden” ingredients to deliver extra vitamins and minerals, such as mashed potatoes with added mashed cauliflower and three-cheese pasta with added butternut squash. These sorts of products play into a larger consumer trend that has taken hold, which is a shift away from restrictive diets to ones that are focused more on adding value. People are unhappy, the thinking goes, when they are actively denying themselves the foods that they want to eat. By reframing dieting to be about getting more fruits, vegetables, and “clean” foods instead of cutting out fats/sugars/carbs, is easier for some to reach their personal nutrition goals.

Further, thanks to the explosive popularity of plant-based meat companies like Beyond Meats and Impossible Foods, consumers are quickly getting used to the idea of vegetables being reimagined to taste like completely different dishes. Whereas something like black bean-based tortilla chips may have had difficulty finding a market in the past, today’s consumers are much more receptive to trying the protein-rich snack.

Specialty retailers like Wegmans have been particularly aggressive about developing products that satisfy this new trend, offering snacks like sweet potato chips and green pea snack crisps to consumers. Even national brands like Green Giant have introduced more nutritious items, including a line of “riced” vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli.

So what will this mean for the producers of potato, corn, and rice products? If they do not have the interest or ability to shift into wider vegetable inclusivity, then we might see some companies working to rebrand starches. It’s very unlikely that such staples are going to fall dramatically out of favor, but don’t be surprised if you see some campaigns in the near future that detail the nutritional benefits of potatoes.

We have called out these trends on Instagram, where we are running a new series called #TrendTuesday. Follow Works Design Group’s account for weekly insights for a variety of categories from across the grocery store.

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