Never underestimate the relentlessness in humanity’s pursuit of the next tasty treat.

What is a snack?

While it’s not one of the great questions of our time

[1], it is worth a little investigating, at least in light of our look last week at snacking origins. And the fact that we are experiencing a snacking renaissance.

It happened because global communications have allowed ideas, concepts, and innovation to mix, match, and marinate from every corner of the world. Improvements in transportation and logistics encourage the spread of new ideas in the form of tasty treats.

Boba drinks exemplify this type of “viral” spread. What began as a regional favorite—milk tea with tapioca balls added to it—was invented in Taiwan in the 1980’s. When the beverages began to show up in the U.S. at first, it was as a niche favorite for in-the-know beverage enthusiasts and Asian commercial culture mavens. Today the drinks are an “established American food trend” in the words of culinary publication Food & Wine. Everyone puts their own spin on the recipe. And you can purchase them conveniently, as packaged beverages, perfect for c-store shelves!

Snacking cross-pollination flows in multiple directions, so the process works the other way, too, as other countries put their spin on tasty treats originating in the U.S. Japan has adapted Kentucky Fried Chicken into their Christmas celebrations. Palomitas de chile y limón is a popular Mexican version of a snack harking back to the earliest days of the American Colonies.

Not every item pushing the envelope of “snackability” has to be a cultural mashup, though. There are plenty of originals that remain associated with the country in which they were invented. The possibilities truly are endless. Let’s look at a few.

Dried Lizards (China): Lizards are considered to be beneficial for health and are often used in traditional Chinese medicine. They can be eaten as a snack or added to tea or soup for flavor.

Toasted Bamboo Worms (Thailand): Known as “Rod Duan” in Thailand, the worms are fried or toasted and are recognized for their crispy texture.

Cheeseburger in a Can (Germany): It’s exactly what it sounds like—a fully cooked cheeseburger sealed within a can.

Cricket Energy Bars (U.S.A): Crickets are high in protein and a sustainable source of meat. Think of it as a nutrition bar with a twist!

Durian Candy (Southeast Asia): Durian, also known as the “king of fruits,” is loved by many in Southeast Asia despite its strong smell. Durian-flavored candies capture the complex and unique flavor of this fruit.

Wasabi Kit-Kats (Japan): Japan is known for its innovative Kit-Kat flavors. This tops the list.

Salty Licorice (Finland): This can be a bit of a surprise for those expecting the sweet licorice flavor more common in countries like the U.S. In Finland, they enjoy a saltier, almost bitter version.

While the possibilities for snacking may be endless, in the end, there’s only one real driver for innovation—whether people like the product or not. And the best way to understand what people favor is by analyzing what’s selling in your store on a by-item basis—even as your inventory grows and broadens. If you have an increasing number of UPCs and PLUs nudging their way onto your shelves, and you feel you’re having a little trouble catching up, give SSCS a call at 800 972-7727. We’ll show you how to make even the oddest products work for you. And while we’re at it we may even advise you on how to affix a bar code label to a lizard’s back!

[1] Or maybe it is!