Snackification: Well+Good Talk
Wednesday night I attended a Well+Good Talk on the topic of SNACKING. Is there really a better topic out there?! I think not. The Assemblage NoMad, was the venue for the event–a gorgeous space with lounge furniture, beautiful wall decor and lighting that makes your heart at peace. A yogurt bar with Siggi's, granola, nuts, and berries set the stage for what was to come. The panel included Siggi's Founder, Siggi Hilmarsson, Whole Foods' Kelly Landrieu, and Kerri Glassman, Founder of The Nutritious Life Studio. I was blown away by the panelists' answers, advice, and general knowledge. I took extensive notes that you will find below. I hope you enjoy this information as much as I did.
"40% if Americans eat 1 snack a day, 50% eat 2 or more."
Q: How did we get to be a country on snacking?
Kelly (Whole Foods)- The tipping point was in 2013. As people worked in their day to day life, they were forced to find something on-the-go that was a little more nutritious than a donut. Trend sourcing came about as the need grew more apparent. We are living busier and faster lives so "snacking became king.” 50% of all eating occasions are snacking ones. As the need for snacking arose, more convenience foods came about in the market. Companies are innovative, nimble and fast and want to give you what you want. They want to fulfill your needs.
Q: What is snacking like in Iceland?
Siggi (Siggi's Dairy)- In Iceland, growing up there was always yogurt in the fridge. We chose dense rye crackers with cheese, or the Icelandic classic: dried fish. Snacks tended to be something we grabbed from the fridge-whole foods.
Q: Why are humans programmed to snack?
Kerri (The Nutritious Life Studio)- There are two real components to this. The physiology- we need energy, fuel to think, live, and do. Our physiology tell us when we’re hungry. Essentially our body tells us we need fuel to live - real nutrients we are currently lacking. Cravings are for a reason and usually related to nutrient deficiency or a nature craving (our personal taste preference). Our culture programmed us to snack. We go to fridge right when we get home from work. I say "snacks are the anchor for health.” As a pro (for snacking and a professional) snacker. Many people think of snacking as a bad thing. It has a negative connotation such that we are not supposed to do it or we do it in a negative way. When you snack the right way, on the right types of foods, it is an opportunity for you to get the nutrients you need and prevent you from overeating on to your next meal. Food is food, it shouldn’t matter what time you are eating it. We should be snacking when we’re slightly hungry and until we’re slightly full, with real whole foods.
Q: How does a product get to Whole Foods?
Kelly- There are any variety of ways a products gets into our stores. We are always looking for interesting, innovative products that satisfy a need. We especially love ones that have a great story behind them. My advice is to reach out and network, got to farmer's markets, expos, and use instagram.
Q: How did Siggi's launch into Whole Foods?
Siggi- I started by selling yogurt with handmade labels at a farmer's market in Manhattan and to 15 stores. A friend called me one day and said he was having a retreat in East Hampton and wanted me to donate yogurt for their breakfast bar. It was an eclectic group of attendees- yogis, business men, musicians, and a Whole Foods Administrator. The Whole Foods Admin Exec loved the yogurt but had no real connection to getting it in stores. Not long after the retreat, the WFs Exec was helping the main buyer and was raving about Siggi's yogurt. The buyer called me up and introduced himself. He said, "I need this yogurt nationally now!" Shocked, I said, "how about half the country first." There were definitely some difficulties getting the product produced in mass in the beginning, but we learned and improved.
Q: How do you monitor food trends and what do you look at?
Kelly- Whole Foods has a whole data-centric team. We have buyers and category managers that are all experts in their category and they keep an eye on their part of the market. We have an annual meeting to share our findings and trends are made public the following November. I personally look at blogs, websites, and social media. My advice to food entrepreneurs: look at the market and speak to the need you see in the market. Be patient, ask advice, and network.
Convenience is a really big trend, 77% of Americans want their meals ready to eat with no prep at all.
Q: What is your new yogurt product coming soon?
Siggi- For yogurt in the USA, people want food that is ready to eat whenever. We are designing something to fit the market: a side car to pour granola into your yogurt for convenience. Our big thing is to make the granola healthy. That means no added sugar. Our granola will mostly be a blend of things like coconut flakes and almonds.
Q: Are there any down and dirty tricks to weed out the snacks that are bad for you?
Kerri: Don’t look at the nutrition facts only, look at the ingredients. High in fiber and protein means nothing unless the ingredients are good for you. An example of this is that you wouldn’t buy a house without looking at the inside. Take a look at ingredients first. Nutrition labels are not always necessary if the ingredients list has good foods. Some foods can be deceiving. Take veggie chips for an example. Good ones are those that are dehydrated veggies with no additives or chemicals. There are bad ones that are still called veggie chips but are loaded with oils, additives, chemicals with only a sprinkle of veggies powder. Something you might think is healthy but is actually not is PB2. Removing the fat (which is a healthy fat) is like eating broccoli without the antioxidants. Try to avoid eating foods that aren't actually healthy. Low fat items (especially salad dressings) are an example of this. They have their fats removed but it is usually replaced with sugars. Another one to be watchful of is gluten-free products. Some of these have lots of chemicals.
Q: What are the most popular snack at Whole Foods Offices?
Kelly- We have three drawers. Our breakfast drawer is made up of granolas, grain-free granolas, and oatmeals. The second one holds lots of dehydrated fruits. The last has whole grains, popcorns, trail mix and nuts, legumes like toasted chickpeas and toasted split peas. We go for snacks that are nutritionally dense so they will hold you over allowing you to get your work done.
Q: What does the perfect day of snacking look like for you?
Kerri- I usually have breakfast, then a snack by 10:30-11am. This is usually a 1/2 avocado with chia seeds. I will eat lunch and then in the afternoon my snack tends to be nuts, trail mix, or berries on yogurt. After dinner I almost always go for something small and sweet like dark chocolate with coconut flakes or a date with peanut butter in it. If I had to choose food to ban it would be any snack that are fluorescent orange. That is not natural! I would also ban highly processed cookies which are all chemicals and sugar, and any cracker that comes with a dunking cheese. My favorite three snacks are a mix of nuts, avocado, or yogurt.
Q: Kelly, what are your favorite snacks?
Kelly- I go for local berries in season, fruit, and Wella Bars (especially the ones with tart cherries in them). I go for snacks that keep me full–snacking for me is always around function. Food categories that are really trending right now are "better for you indulgences" like K’ul Bars (chocolate with superfoods in it) and "nostalgic snacking" like gummie bears that are lower sugar.
Q: Siggi, what is your favorite snack?
Siggi- Unbiased I would say yogurts, bananas, nuts, cheese, eggs, dried fish (if I'm in Iceland) and flatbread Scandinavian crackers. My advice to food entrepreneurs is to find something you’re really passionate about because there will be lots of ups and downs. You will have many sleepless nights, but something you are passionate about and not just something you think the market needs, you will be much happier.
Q: Are there any tips to prevent oversnacking?
Kerri: You are the expert of your own body. For me, if she didn’t snack I would eat a whole pizza for dinner. But need to do what’s right for you. There are many positive benefits to snacking, and portion control is everything. If you’re just eating all day, there's usually a reason. Maybe you need a bigger breakfast. Make your snack like a meal: take your apple, slice it, put cinnamon and pb on it and enjoy. This makes you eat slower and seems like you’re eating more.
Q: Any advice for snacking while working or studying?
Kerri- If you have complete meals with enough fat, protein, water volume and fiber (veggies), then your snacks tend to be smaller. Take a set snack break when you’re working or studying all day. Some healthy brain foods are ones with antioxidants (like blueberries) and healthy fats/other omega 3s.
Q: Any advice for choosing breads?
Kerri: I go for bread with no fake coloring and no sugars/added sugars. My go-tos are Ezekiel bread or fresh from the bakery sour dough. Siggi- Bread and some other products in America do "sugar splitting" on nutrition labels. This is when companies incorporate many different forms of sugars (like honey, sugar, cane sugar, fructose, etc) separately on labels to make them less volume per item which allows them to be placed further down the ingredients list. This tricks consumers into thinking they are getting less sugar than they really are; looking at ingredients labels is so important.
Q: How do you feel about protein or collagen?
Kerri- I'm for it, but make sure it’s good and whole ingredients. My advice is to mix it with other nutrients like berries when making smoothies for snacks. This gives you more nutrient fuel than simply just protein powder which tends to lack in other areas. It then becomes a full snack rather just replenishing one nutrient deficiency.
My hope is that we can all grow in our knowledge of food as fuel. We need to fuel our bodies right and at with intention. Be mindful of ingredients. Choose what is right for your own body and be more aware of how your body reacts to different foods. Snacking helps prevent overeating at full meal times, and becomes a convenience for our busy lives.