Chocolate and peanut butter, caramel and sea salt — some of the most popular flavor combinations on the market illustrate a long-held belief: Sweet and salty pair perfectly together.
And as consumers seek opportunities to snack, as well as indulge, manufacturers are turning to this taste bud-tickling combination to meet demand, further blurring the lines between snacks and confections.
Marissa Foray, senior brand manager for Flipz, a pladis brand known for making chocolate-covered pretzels, noted consumers search for products that satisfy their needs at certain times. They’re not necessarily concerned with specific categories, she said.
“As the market has become inundated with what seems like infinite snack choices, consumers are looking for new and different snacks which often come to life as more inventive flavors combinations,” Foray said. “We have seen that sweet and salty is often at the center of these mashups.”
While Flipz chocolate-covered pretzels have been on the market for more than 25 years, the brand has sought to vary flavor options, introducing Birthday Cake pretzels in 2015 and Caramel Sea Salt pretzels in 2017.
“The salty, crunchy pretzel and sweet coatings offer a perfect combination of flavors,” Foray said. “It is this balance of flavors that we feel sets Flipz apart and will be the foundation for new product innovation. Going forward we are focused on how Flipz can bring new and different sweet and salty products to market to meet emerging consumer need states.”
Consumers are seeking more poppable, shareable items, and to fulfill this demand, the Flipz brand launched Flipz Mix earlier this year. It features milk chocolate-covered pretzels, uncoated pretzels, popcorn and chocolate candy pieces.
“The Flipz Mix takes sweet and salty to the next level,” Foray said. “We have added inclusions that create additional layers to the sweet-and-salty dynamic by creating a different eating experience whether the inclusions are eaten together or separately.”
The Hershey Co. has also seen success with its snack mixes, first introduced in 2016. Launched under the Reese’s, Kit Kat and Hershey’s brands, these mixes feature nuts, pretzels or popcorn, and miniature versions of Hershey’s iconic chocolate pieces.
Hershey spokeswoman Laura Renaud called confection a “critical sub-category” of snacking as a whole, offering an opportunity to blend the two. She also noted nearly three in five consumers use snacking as an opportunity to indulge.
“Consumers told us it was their favorite flavor combination, so Hershey and others in the industry leaned in and provided consumers with more snacks that blend both sweet and salty ingredients,” she said.
The Hershey Co. has pursued the vision of becoming a leader in the snacking space, prompting the company to acquire Amplify Snack Brands, which made Skinny Pop, for $1.6 billion last year. It also also acquired Pirate Brands for $420 million.
The acquisitions allowed Hershey to maintain its strong position in the confectionery space while also playing in the fast-growing snacking arena.
“The line between sweet and salty snacks continues to blur, leading us to acquire better-for-you snack brands like Skinny Pop and Pirate’s Booty to meet the needs of consumers and achieve our innovative ‘snacking powerhouse’ vision,” Renaud said.
However, there is the challenge of merchandising products that aren’t quite candy and aren’t quite salty snacks. Renaud recommended relying on shopper insights to develop a retail strategy that meets consumers’ needs.
“We’re investing in deeper snacking insights to position our retail partners for success,” she said. “With 88 percent of everyday candy sales happening in the center of the store, it is important that retailers take advantage of this space.”
Packaging also plays a critical role in capturing shoppers’ attention in a short amount of time, Foray noted.
“Packaging has evolved as brands need to ensure their product not only pops on the physical shelf but also the digital one,” she said. “Flipz packaging has always been loud and proud, the bright blue bag and yellow logo really stand out, and we are seeing other brands harness similarly the power of bold, bright colors.”
If it helps consumers easily find the sweet-and-salty products they’re seeking, they won’t be salty about that.