Snack attack: Demand for healthier options opens doors for seafood and marine-based bites

More Americans are pursuing healthier lifestyles and making healthier food choices at every meal, including snack time.

According to recent statistics from Mintel, 90 percent of U.S. adults snack daily, 70 percent indulge in snacks two or more times a day, and 17 percent seek out treats between meals four or more times per day. Mintel also found that two-thirds of snackers are replacing meals with snacks. Under these circumstances, it’s easy to understand the growing number of snack options that offer indulgence and, at the same time, meaningful nutritional value.

With increasing demand for more nutritionally-balanced snacks, coupled with the health benefits attributed to seafood and marine-based products, it’s no surprise that new entries in the snack category are optimizing seaweed and finfish as their primary ingredients.

Seaweed has been popular in Southeast Asia for a very long time, with Americans introduced to the sea vegetable more recently – most notably as a way to wrap sushi. While it has been available in limited quantities in ethnic and niche food stores, there are growing numbers of seaweed brands – including gimMe, Nora, and SeaSnax – that are finding greater interest from consumers, and increased placement in mainstream healthy food and grocery settings in North America.

While healthy living advocates recognize and appreciate the nutritional value that seaweed represents, a tremendous amount of education still needs to take place among consumers and retailers alike with products in this category, according to Steve Broad, CEO of gimMe Health Foods.

“There are still a lot of people out there who see seaweed as an alien food. Getting moms to understand that this is an enjoyable treat for their kids and, even better, a nutritionally dense snack, is a huge challenge,” Broad said.

Seaweed snacks, once limited in variety, are now available in numerous configurations with a wide range of flavors that include Spicy Tempura, Roasted Sea Salt, Jalapeno, Olive Oil, Toasted Coconut, Wasabi, Sriracha, Sesame, and Almond.

When it comes to snacks made from fish, there are new products being introduced on a regular basis. The remarkable popularity of beef jerky – the best-selling snack food in the healthy living sector – coupled with an ever-increasing demand for nutritionally beneficial snacks, has driven the creation of new several fish jerky products.

One of the most promising new arrivals in the fish jerky arena is OneForNeptune, an innovative producer using sustainable U.S. West Coast rockfish as its primary ingredient.

“We knew that customers were looking for something with the familiar taste and texture of beef jerky. It took making a lot of bad jerky in my home kitchen to perfect the winning recipes, all of which are being well received everywhere we go,” said Nick Mendoza, the founder of OneForNeptune.

OneForNeptune is a champion of the use of bycatch. While not yet commercially viable, the company is hoping to introduce products made from lionfish, an invasive species that threatens the well-being of coral reefs and other marine ecosystems around the world.

While fish jerky is enjoyed by people of all ages, it seems that younger outdoor adventurers, as well as individuals following keto and paleo diets, have a particular fondness for this new type of snack. With considerably high levels of selenium and omega-3 fatty acids – nutrients that can promote brain development during pregnancy and early life – as well as other nutritional benefits, expectant mothers have become an important target market, Mendoza said.

Recognizing that consumers, especially millennials, are looking for “better for you” snacks that are convenient and portable, a few seafood brands including Bumble Bee, Chicken of the Sea, and Blue Hill Bay (Acme Smoked Fish) have entered the snacking arena as well.

“Pouched seafoods are one of our fastest-growing lines. They’re easy to throw into a lunchbox, briefcase, or stow in a car for when hunger pains kick in. Beyond portability, [they’re] a delicious and nutritionally rich snack,” said Renee Junge, the vice president of brand marketing and innovation at Bumble Bee Foods.

Similarly, Chicken of the Sea has introduced “Infusions,” a line of tuna-based products infused with oil, herbs, and spices packed in portable, single-serve cups for on-the-go snacking.

Poke bowls are another big seafood trend becoming more popular for lunch and midday snacks. In response, Blue Hill Bay has introduced two protein-packed, preportioned, single-serve poke bowls featuring smoked salmon and smoked ahi tuna.

Seafood snacks have been a mainstay in barrooms and beer halls in Russia, South Korea, and Japan, and demand is growing in U.S. watering holes. With an even greater variety of seafood and marine-based products will be emerging, seafood companies will likely place a continued focus on products that pack nutritional value and convenience in a portable container.

Photo courtesy of OneForNeptune


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