Snack Group’s Crackerjack New Strategy: Reaching Across the Aisles

As part of a rebranding plan, the Snack Food Association is focusing on serving member companies that make healthier fare. The move reflects demographic shifts that are changing the marketplace.

Can the makers of cookies and vegan beef jerky coexist in the same organization? Well, the Snack Food Association is about to find out.

The group revealed at its 2015 SNAXPO event in Orlando that it is looking to expand its membership base to make different kinds of food manufacturers feel more welcome. Part of the reason, noted SFA President and CEO Tom Dempsey, is that limiting its member base to more traditional snacks creates image issues.

“We have a hard time getting our story told, because as soon as we say ‘the Snack Food Association’ there’s sometimes a misperception that all we are is chips, potato chips, pretzels, and tortillas, when in fact almost any one of our multicategory members are doing a healthier version or have a new innovation,” Dempsey told last week.

Other factors are coming into play as well. For example, there’s a sizable gap between the industry’s larger corporate members and the startups that hope to make an impact in the space. SFA wants to be the home for both groups, giving those smaller companies the resources they need to succeed, too.

“We also want to acknowledge and assist the new incubator companies that have an idea, a plan, or a product for the snacking market but need more information or need sourcing to be successful,” Dempsey told PotatoPro.

The snack industry is seeing growth with both healthy snacks (almond butter, for example) and indulgent ones (chocolate-covered potato chips, anyone?). But as Convenience Store Products notes, consumers are pushing for healthier ingredients in both cases. The publication cites statistics from the research company IRI showing that 48 percent of customers prefer more natural snacks, while 27 percent want their snacks to be organic.

Millennials, or those ages 18 to 34, are helping drive interest in healthier snacks.

One thing is certain: Snack makers have differing needs—from marketing budget to messaging—and SFA’s role is to ensure that there’s room across the snack spectrum for a variety of products to thrive.

“There’s a wide range of things that can be done, and there’s place for all of our members to do that,” Dempsey told “One of our jobs will be to make it easy for them to do it, with as much support as we can give.”

(J.D. Pooley/Getty Images)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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