Amplify takes snacking to a whole new level

Kelly Dawson
January 21, 2018
13 min read
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When it’s two in the afternoon and dinner is so far away, most of us come to one solution: Snacking.

The crunch of a salty chip, the toss of a few pretzels, or the bite of a granola bar at this time of day can become such a regular habit that it almost feels as vital as morning coffee.

But it’s funny: as much as we crave a snack, we also fear the associated guilt. We tell ourselves we shouldn’t have had those sugary cookies, over and over again. We discreetly hide the evidence of a candy bar wrapper. We wipe the memory of an afternoon ice cream from our thoughts. We convince ourselves that we deserved fries. In fact, the ways that we placate that gnawing feeling can follow us until we’re hungry again for dinner.

As common as this snacking routine can be, it also doesn’t have to be so hard. Sure, we know that an apple is a worthwhile snack...but popcorn just tastes too good. So what are we to do? Well, when six almonds and a grape won’t cut it, there’s Amplify Snack Brands.

For the past few years, Amplify has made a name for itself as a healthy substitute for our favorite snacks, without changing the look or taste of them. Its catalog of products include popcorn made with sunflower oil, tortilla chips cooked from ground corn, and protein bars packed with omega-3s. By using a handful of ingredients in every item, and ensuring that they’re healthier than the longstanding alternatives, Amplify has given us a reason to celebrate. By sticking to its foods, we can snack from a tasty selection without any impending regret.

And now that Amplify is in the works to be purchased by Hershey’s — an announcement that came December 18 — this company is on the rise even more.

Grab and go

Two years ago, in July 2015, the market intelligence agency Mintel came out with a surprising report. It said that 94 percent of Americans snack every day, and that more than half snack multiple times a day. That’s interesting on its own — since most of the participants stated that they snacked to satisfy a craving — but there was another intriguing aspect: 33 percent said that they were choosing healthier snacks when the need strikes, which was up from 29 percent the previous year.

“Americans claim a preference toward healthier snacks, specifically those with simple ingredients and low-calorie counts,” said food analyst Amanda Topper in the report. “However, they most often snack to satisfy a craving, highlighting the important role taste and flavor play on their snacking behavior.”

Just weeks after this report was released, Amplify went public. And if you were thinking that the move was quite well-timed for a company that has only existed since 2010, you’d be right: it’s almost as if Amplify knew a thing or two about how Americans are changing the between-big-meals business.

In its IPO, this Austin-based company noted Nielsen research that stated how salty snack sales in the U.S. were estimated to be about $18 billion in 2015, and that it would grow three to four percent every year through 2019. “We believe a variety of favorable consumer trends, including a greater focus on health and wellness, increased consumption of smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, and a strong preference for convenient BFY [better for you] products, will continue to drive both strong overall snacking growth as well as the continued outperformance of BFY products within the overall market,” it said.

The company’s anchor brand that started it all, Skinny Pop popcorn, is an item that exemplifies Amplify’s mindset. The popcorn comes in a variety of flavors — like white cheddar, pepper jack, and jalapeno — and is advertised with the accolades of being non-GMO, gluten free, and preservative free. Its other major offerings include Paqui tortilla chips (which are free of MSG, trans-fat, and gluten), Oatmega protein bars and cookies (which are made from grass-fed whey and omega-3s), and Tyrrell’s Potato Chips (which are hand-cooked from a few ingredients, including local British potatoes). Together, these brands are sold in traditional, specialty, and independent supermarkets, and can also be ordered online.

The company strives to build a niche for itself within the ultimate-craving category of salty snacks, but it’s doing so while knocking out artificial ingredients, added flavors, and allergens, too, depending on the item. This type of health consciousness seems to recognize the challenges of a disciplined health regimen and therefore gives people a middle ground between sweets and vegetables. While Amplify still may not be the healthiest option for snacking, it’s much better than others.

This company knows that “just a little something” between meals may be inevitable since there are so many reasons that lead us to it. But from individual decisions like boredom and stress to social factors like parties and presents, Amplify is offering a bright compromise. It’s saying that health can still come first, even when participating in a ritual that 94 percent of Americans do every day.

How about a pick-me-up?

When that afternoon craving strikes, and you need something, anything to satisfy it, these are the types of things that will do just that: a peanut butter cookie, nacho cheese-flavored chips, and buttered microwave popcorn, just to name a few. But before we get your mouth watering, there should be another aspect to this list that’s appealing: they’re all in Amplify’s catalog, which will continue to expand.

Despite a start that dipped its initial IPO of $18 to about $5 recently, the company is still profitable and growing. In the most recent quarter, Amplify posted a year-over-year revenue growth of 39 percent, and grew 10 percent in this quarter. The wellness category of snacks continues to see its popularity rise at two-to-three times faster than traditional snacks, and Amplify plans to take its snacking international next year.

And how about this news to brush some (cheese) dust off of Amplify’s shoulders? On December 18, Hershey’s announced that it plans to acquire Amplify for $1.6 billion. This announcement, which is a push for the chocolate brand to expand its market, pushed Amplify’s stock up by 70 percent to about $12 a share. “The two expect annual synergies of about $20 million over the next two years from cost savings and portfolio optimization,” CNBC reports.

As more consumers opt for healthier options between larger meals, Amplify has been working to provide pick-me-ups that don’t veer from the wellness track. By offering options with simpler and fresher ingredients, Amplify promises that its customers can go ahead and eat without the guilt. And that’s what you need at 2 p.m., or whenever hunger strikes: the feeling of knowing that you can be full without the fuss.

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Amplify Snack Brands is part of our Healthy Living portfolio

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