Luxury Snacking: Childhood Snacks Get a High-End Makeover

Mar 1, 2012 2:07pm
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                                                                                                                                          (Gilt Taste)

Couch potatoes now have something more exciting to snack on  as the basic grocery store nibbles we grew up on get an epicurean upgrade.

Food producers have been pushing the limits of snacking, taking inspiration from popular dinner and dessert recipes.  A love of  General Tso’s chicken might lead you to Terra Chip’s new Chinese food chip, or your love of buffalo wings might guide you to Brother Joe’s buffalo peanuts.

At Popcornopolis in Los Angeles, popcorn is coated with such flavors as strawberries and cream or cupcake,  and  HR Poppin’ Snacks carries unexpected flavors like Rootbeer float or Neopolitan.

Gilt Taste includes varieties like cookies and cream, seen above, or black truffle and white cheddar.  Francis Lam, features editor of Gilt Taste, explained why these new snacks have been fairing so well: “They do really well for a lot of different reasons.  A big part of it is there’s a sense of nostalgia for a lot of these foods.  Probably you grew up with these foods in a really industrial way.  You developed a love for these things.  But now, you’re older, you have a more sophisticated palate.  You can’t avoid the things you loved as a kid.”

“We have these flavor memories and sense memories, like being a kid in the candy shop.  They’re the combination of the inner child and the adult,” Lam said, later pointing out that the doughnut-crazed pastry industry is an example of where this started.

For a site like Gilt Taste, the request for high-end snacks has always been strong:  “We launched in this moment where people were really into food, getting more into food and developing more sophisticated palettes. … For a lot of people, it’s a really nice point of entry to see what it’s like to buy [on the site].  They’re something you can get and enjoy right away- you don’t have to think about going home and cooking.”

Surprisingly, these companies aren’t targeting kids. “It’s an age range from mid-20s to adulthood.  Parents who want to share these foods with their children.  If I can share with them a gourmet version, it would feel a lot better.”

Even the potato chip has been taken to new heights in grocery aisles.  Terra Chip’s chef-inspired flavors take the chef out of your kitchen and onto your chip, with options like Pesto and Smoked Mozzarella or Chesapeake Bay and Beer chips flavored with natural beer flavoring.  Snack mixes from Otis and Betty go beyond your average trail mixes by infusing them with bourbon.

Lam said, “They’re snacks.  They’re moments of indulgences.  What we want in our food experience is flavor.  So we make sure we have so much satisfying flavor,” pointing out that when we consume lesser-quality snacks we feel that we need more of it to be satisfied.

With more flavor-rich foods, less is more, “It’s an intense experience, you can close the bag and save it for the next time,” he said.

The ability to not consume too many luxury snacks at a time is for the best, as prices can range anywhere from $20 or more depending on the size of the container and snack being purchased.

“For a lot of people, it’s ‘What’s this cost  relative to what you can buy?’  What does it cost, and what’s the amount of pleasure you can get out of it?”

Regardless of price, the pleasure factor is great, especially when an item is linked to the favorite foods we enjoyed as kids – just make sure you don’t eat the whole tin.

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