Healthy-ingredient snacks offer the perfect convergence of many important modern food industry trends and as a result the segment is thriving. Portable? Check. Healthy? Check. Transparent labels and packaging? Check.

As a result of these factors, among others, the past half decade has seen steady growth for healthy-ingredient snacks. The market's compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.7 percent has outpaced overall food and beverage sales growth.

The findings were featured in Healthy-Ingredient Snacks in the U.S., 2nd Edition, a recently released report by market research firm Packaged Facts.  In the report, Packaged Facts includes meat snacks, snack bars, snack nuts, fruit snacks, and trail mixes in its research scope for healthy-ingredient snacks.

The past two years in particular have seen much stronger market growth due to double-digit gains in the meat snack and trail mix categories in 2014, and stronger growth in snack bars in 2015.  Packaged Facts projects the healthy-ingredient snack segment will continue enjoying steady growth in sales. A CAGR of 5.7 percent is expected between 2016 and 2020.

A variety of industry trends are responsible for this bullish outlook:

●      Consumer preference: There is a growing preference amongst snackers for products that provide more healthful options than typical snacks.

●      Free from: "Free from" remains a top driving trend for healthy-ingredient snack sales, with allergen- and gluten-free claims the most popular.

●      Innovation: Protein, bite-sized snacks and innovative flavors are in high demand.

●      Healthy habits: There has been an increase in the percentage of adults who believe they snack healthier, which has climbed to 30 percent in the last decade. Relatedly, younger Americans are more likely to believe they eat healthier than are older adults.

●      Natural claims: Finally, the term "natural" as a marketing tool may have to change if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration adopts regulations concerning the term.

Private label drives growth

Not to be overlooked is the fact that retailers are increasingly marketing private label healthy snacks.  Many different retail chains have recognized the growing interest of consumers for healthy-ingredient snacks. These chains are not only developing and introducing new products to the segment, but are starting to spend more money and effort advertising those products as well.

In the convenience channel, the most notable new brand is 7-Eleven's 7-Select Go!Smart brand and its yogurt-drizzled snack bars.

In the natural channel, Trader Joe's does a significant amount of in-store ads and out of category displays for its many distinctive private label healthy-ingredient snacks.

Supermarket chain Aldi introduced its Simply Nature line of all natural and organic foods at the beginning of 2014, and continues to support and advertise the brand as a permanent addition to its Private Brand portfolio. The brand includes fruit and nut bars, energy bars and fruit snacks as part of its offerings.

Beyond healthy-ingredient snack sales, many retailers are starting to highlight healthier snacking in general, by providing more information and easier access to healthy snacks within the store.

For example, as part of making healthy snacks a priority in 2015, the supermarket chain Wegmans started putting displays in its stores providing information on how to make quick and healthy at-home snacks using fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods, as well as displays in prepared foods areas that point out healthful store brand snack options.

Healthy-Ingredient Snacks in the U.S., 2nd Edition provides an in-depth analysis of healthy-ingredient snack products and sales through all channels in the U.S. market, focusing on the key categories of snacks driving the market and highlighting the trends driving sales.

The report covers sales of snack bars, snack nuts, fruit snacks, and trail mixes, as well as adding the meat snack category for this latest report edition. The report is available for purchase on the Packaged Facts website