Last week, I went to Expo East in Baltimore to revisit some of the brands I met last March at Expo West. There continues to be a ton of hemp, grain-free, and cauliflower everything.

There was also some new brands, but what stood out most to me were the protein-filled, guilt-lowering line extensions from some of the brands we already love. Happily, in my favorite form — salty, crunchy snacks. These guys know that we don’t want to give up our salty snacks, but we want to avoid all the carb guilt out there right now. Read on for a couple of my favorites.

I love Skinny Pop so much so that when I open the bag I know it’s over. Their popcorn has always been natural and free of all of the stuff that consumers do not like these days like GMOs and gluten. Now they are launching into “protein popcorn”, following in the footsteps of other brands like Square Organics and Protes. I was excited to think I was going to get a full serving of protein from one of my favorite carbs. But unlike those other brands, Skinny Pops’s new entry only has 5 grams of protein. I could have been disappointed, but instead, I did some consumer rationalization. One egg has 6-7 grams of protein, so two servings of Skinny Pop is sort of like an egg! See how that works?

Another brand that stood out was Simply Protein. They have a bunch of different protein bars, but they’ve also extended into salty, crunchy, and high-protein snacks with their Crunchy Bites. My favorite was the barbecue flavor. Full disclosure: I entered a contest at their booth encouraging visitors to share a simple pleasure. And I actually won an IPAD. I think that made me like them a little more 🙂

I am not a usually a snack bar person but Rx Bars, the ones you know for the simple ingredient list on the front of their packaging, always grab my attention. This year they expanded their repertoire to include individual-sized Rx Nut Butters with egg white for added protein. I literally couldn’t get enough of these treats. There were multiple reasons to love them. One is portion control. They come in an individual-sized pack, making it that much harder to go back for just one more spoonful of peanut butter. But what really got me hooked was their delicious taste and texture. They all contain an egg white, either peanuts or almonds and half a date to add just a little bit of sweetness. And in addition to standard almond or peanut butter, they’ve come up with other interesting flavors like maple almond butter, vanilla almond butter, and honey cinnamon peanut butter. The peanut butter was so good, I’ve been dreaming about it ever since.

There was definitely lots and lots of innovation from brands looking to make deeper connections with consumers. But is innovation enough? Not if you don’t have the right insights.

Does your brand need help connecting with health-conscious consumers in irresistable ways? let’s talk.

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