The evolution of today’s snacks leverages packaging in big and small ways.

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Healthy snacking is one of the many trends that chefs, restaurant and retail experts say will continue to be in the forefront in 2012. We all snack; on the go, at our desk, at a ball game, driving in the car and while watching TV. But what we are snacking on is evolving.

Food and nutrition forecasters atPublicis Consultants USA( predicted the top American food trends for 2012 and the number one trend listed is perpetual snacking. That is constantly snacking on smaller, healthier snacks throughout the day. This trend is already present with smaller plates offered at restaurants, smaller treats at Starbucks and individually packaged snacks of all varieties.

Portable options

For years consumers have focused on getting healthier and snacks are an easy way to meet this goal. It seems these days you can get 100-calorie snack packages in almost anything; chips, cookies and even nuts and popcorn.

Emerald Nuts, from Diamond Foods, have long marketed the on-the-go canister of nuts with screw-on lid, and now the company is selling a portion-controlled take on portable nuts. The 100-calorie packs of nuts come packaged in a .63-ounce pouch that serves as an easy on-the-go healthier snacking alternative.

For satisfying snacking, Sargento Foods has launched an entire snacks line. The company has offered string cheeses as a snack option for years. Available in regular and reduced fat, string cheese comes packed in individual sticks for easy portability. Now Sargento offers individually-wrapped cheese sticks (nonstring cheese variety) as well as cubes in a resealable bag.

Applesauce has long been a snacking staple and a frequent go-to for kid’s sack lunches. But now there’s an applesauce on the market that doesn’t require a spoon. GoGo squeeZ launched 100% natural applesauce in pouches for the ultimate portability. The pouches even feature a recloseable cap.

Healthy snacking is here to stay and with all of the variety in stores and restaurants, it’s also a fun way to try new things that get a healthy boost from packaging.

Snack, Crackle, Pop: Popcorn heats up the snacking segment

Another trend forecast by Publicis Consultants is an increase in popcorn snacking, stating that popcorn is healthful, convenient, natural, versatile and affordable. For ultimate convenience, Orville Redenbacher launched a microwaveable bag of popcorn that transform into a bowl right in the microwave.

An already popped popcorn brand, Crave Canyon recently entered the snack foods market with five popcorn varieties paired with unique packaging. Witty flavors as well as descriptions adorn the colorful bags, including, “From Olde England With a Kiss” (kettlecorn kissed with anise) and “Hatch Has Met Its Match” (flavored with world famous green chiles from Hatch, NM).

100-calorie packs have a place in the popcorn world too, as companies like Jolly Time and Orville Redenbacher package these small bags for easy portion-controlled popping. And popcorn company Act II sells a portion-controlled size microwaveable popcorn bag, too.

Southern Recipe brand, a line of Rudolph Foods for the first time introduces popcorn into its line of products. The line features a Cheesy Cajun flavor and is available in two-ounce packages.

“Ready-to-eat popcorn has been the fastest-growing segment of the popcorn market overall,“ says Mark Singleton, VP of Marketing and Sales, Southern Recipe. “Our version is the perfect snack for so many occasions: whether you’re watching the game with friends, getting work done around the house or watching a movie on television, it is sure to satisfy.”

No matter who pops it, popcorn is one snacking trend that delivers a burst of flavor, healthful qualities and makes snacking easy, and did I mention fun?

Snacking sustainably

Sustainability is a term used for every facet of packaging and with snacks the “green” movement is pushing packagers to consider the materials used in their snack packages. According to Fred Crowe, president and CEO ofStar Packaging Corp.(, “Frito-Lay definitely led the push into compostable and renewable materials for snack foods. However, due to cost parameters, other applications have been slow to transition to sustainable packaging alternatives. The transition from rigid packaging to flexible packaging remains the primary trend towards sustainability in most snack food segments.”

Frito-Lay is probably the most recognized snack brand today with brands like Doritos, Cheetos, Lays and Tostitos. But the frontrunner in sustainable snack packaging is Frito Lay’s Sun Chips and the famous 100% compostable bag the brand giant unveiled in 2009, only to then pull it off shelves. The company then relaunched the compostable bag in 2011 in a quieter structure. The solution came from using a different adhesive from H.B. Fuller (, to hold together layers in the bag, acting as a buffer and making the packaging again as quiet as most chip bags. Even before the quieter bag, Frito-Lay took the lead in the snacking world as a company that would try to find solutions to environmental issues and no matter how you chew it, that’s smart snacking.