Pretzels have long been one of America’s favorite snacks. Besides being easy to stash in your bag and eat on the go, these little bites can hit everything we love in a snack: salty, crunchy, soft, spicy, and even sweet.
Manufacturers have been getting more and more creative with this snacktime star. In the past, pretzel choices were limited to mostly rods versus twists or hard versus soft. Today, there’s a whole new world of pretzel varieties to discover. Let’s take a look at which trending flavors consumers are currently obsessed with, as well as new products being introduced to the pretzel market.
The Role of Pretzels and Salty Snacks
People reach for snacks for various reasons, the main one being to hold over hunger until the next meal. Besides just satiating hunger, salty snacks fulfill other functions. Imagine going to the movies and not getting a big bucket of freshly popped popcorn. People turn to salty snacks for reasons as simple as taste, enjoyment, and comfort. We know that emotions are part of food, and food can be used as a way to comfort, especially foods that you have a connection to.
Taking a closer look, we see that consumers look to salty snacks, like pretzels, to help meet emotional needs. People often turn to these snacks in relaxing moments, like when watching a movie or hanging out with friends. Snacks bring people together and provide a little bit of happiness. We also see that two-thirds of consumers turn to salty snacks to fulfill a craving, not only to tide over hunger. The taste and texture of these snacks create a satisfying experience that lets the consumer enjoy both the product and the moment.
Emerging Flavors on the Market
When you think of pretzels, no doubt you think of the salty snacks you grew up with as a kid as a healthier alternative to chips or crackers. While many still enjoy the original taste, the market is filled with new flavors and styles to explore. Today, you can find pretzels in a plethora of shapes, sizes, and tastes for every palate.
When it comes to top pretzel flavors, peanut butter still reigns as king on the supermarket shelf. This flavor pairs so nicely with pretzels because it gives snackers that irresistible combination of salty and sweet. Within the last few years, we have seen a number of other sweet flavors emerge, including honey mustard, yogurt, almond butter, and even cinnamon. These pretzels can be stuffed, like almond and peanut butter, or coated, like yogurt and cinnamon sugar.
As much as consumers are into sweet flavors, they’re still turning to savory flavors. Butter, salted, parmesan and garlic, and cheddar are top flavors for both regular hard pretzels and giant soft pretzels. Since this snack is the perfect vessel for just about any flavor, we can see that spicy notes are making their way up the flavor trends, too. Some popular flavors now on the shelves include spicy ranch, habanero bacon, zesty buffalo, and jalapeño ranch.
Innovation in Snacking
For quite a while, pretzels have been marketed as a healthier alternative to snacks such as potato chips that may be higher in calories, sugar, and fat. We are now noticing that this factor isn’t as important to today's snackers, who are more led by taste and flavor profiles. Only about a quarter of consumers look for healthier options, including organic, low-sugar, and low-fat items, before buying a snack. Within this group, we see that millennials, especially parents in this age bracket, are most likely to look for new products and innovation when it comes to snacks and pretzels.
Innovation is key in the snack market, ensuring that consumers always have something new to try. One interesting pretzel trend right now is the use of sourdough. Sourdough exploded onto the market during the early days of the pandemic, when people suddenly had time to attempt to nurture sourdough starters and make artisanal bread from scratch. Even now, consumers can’t get enough of this flavor, so several brands are offering crunchy sourdough pretzels. Snackers can rejoice and get their fill of this delicious flavor without the work or mess of making it at home.
Another trend that we see is a push toward global flavors in snacking. As Americans expand their palates through travel and global cuisine, they’re introduced to spices and flavor combinations that they’ve never experienced before. We can see that Asian and Middle Eastern flavors are big in snacking right now because of the variety of spices and levels of heat that come from these cuisines. Spice blends that are characteristic of different cultures, like shichimi, baharat, and gochujang, are making American snack foods delicious in exciting new ways.
Pretzel manufacturers are also bringing the heat by partnering with popular hot sauce manufacturers. This gives consumers the chance to mix their favorite snack with a tasty sauce they already enjoy. Pretzel manufacturers can benefit from a partnership like this, as customers' loyalty to their mouth-scorchers of choice can bring them into the fold (or twist).
A Whole New World of Flavors
While pretzels are nothing new, consumers prove that this old favorite isn’t going away anytime soon. Many are satisfied with the simple crunch of a classic salty pretzel, but others are excited about all the new flavors and types of pretzels now on the market.
While there have been some variations in top flavor trends over the last decade, we can see that the most beloved flavors stay dominant. Even so, there’s plenty of room on the supermarket shelf for innovative new products that bring global flavors to consumers who want to relax and enjoy a tasty snack. Shoppers will continue to reach for pretzels of all kinds, especially those from brands that continue to think of new ways to satisfy cravings and introduce new flavors.
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