Why “Burnt” Snacks Are About to Show Up on Grocery Shelves

published Oct 27, 2023
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grocery isle with packed shelves
Credit: Thomas Hoerup

It started with nacho-cheese-flavored tortilla chips. Then there was sour cream and onion-, ranch-, and barbecue-flavored snacks. And in the last decade there’s been a surge of creative flavors like Korean barbecue, flaming hot, dill pickle, and truffle salt as companies jostle for our attention in the crowded snack aisle of grocery stores. 

The latest, and arguably my favorite, trend takes a step back from the maximalist flavor blasting approach and relies instead on an old French baker’s secret: for the best flavor, simply bake until the product is “bien cuit” or extra-toasty.  

What Is “Extra Toasty”? 

The basic premise of extra toasty snacks relies on the caramelization of sugars in the ingredients being cooked. Just like the cookie in the corner of your cookie sheet that gets a little browner than the rest or the extra-savory dark potato chip at the bottom of the bag, extra toasty foods taste more intense than their paler counterparts. 

It’s quite simple for food companies to achieve this next-level flavor: they cook their products a little longer to achieve a more baked/fried/roasted snack. Crackers, potato chips, pretzels, nuts, and even peanut butter are popping up advertising “extra toasty,” “extra dark,” “dark roast,” and “burnt” on labels, and consumers are eating it up, literally. 

Why Are “Extra Toasty” Snacks Trending? 

Why are food companies turning up the oven? “With a more diverse demographic and a rise in interest in chefs and cooking processes, bitter, char, and caramelized are all flavors people are more comfortable with now,” says food trend expert Kara Nielsen

While consumers love to try bold, new flavors, they are also more likely to spend money on something familiar according to flavor forecasters at Mintel, a food industry trend forecaster. Nearly everyone has found the dark potato chip, singed cracker, or slightly scorched peanut in the bag, so it’s a familiar flavor that many snack aficionados seek out. 

The intensity of darker roasted snacks also goes hand-in-hand with the snack board craze, says Nielsen. “These snacks are a little more sophisticated than your average cheese cracker or pretzel. That makes them suitable for putting on a nice cheese or charcuterie board; they’re just a little more grown up.” The intensity of flavor also means you’re more likely to indulge in just a few rather than munch the whole bag. Indulgence in moderation #FTW!

Are extra toasty snacks going to bump our good old sour cream and onion chips off the shelves anytime soon? Probably not. Extra dark foods have always been a subjective thing, love them or hate them. Customer reviews of the extra-toasty crackers on the Cheez-Its website range from “Extra Toasty? More Like Extra Burnt” to “I have never eaten a better thing in my life.” 

It’s up to you to see which side of the debate you are on. While you’re at it, here are three new extra-toasty snacks to get your explorations started.

3 “Extra Toasty” Snacks to Seek Out

Credit: Ivy Manning

1. Cheez-It Extra Toasty Baked Snack Crackers 

According to the company’s website, customers have been clamoring for years for whole boxes of only the dark-baked cheese crackers for years. Cheez-It has responded with 2 “extra toasty” flavors — cheddar and cheddar-jack. Cheese fans take note–these little squares pack an intensely savory, cereal-meets-aged cheddar flavor and a slightly crisper texture than their paler brethren. 

Buy: Cheez-It Extra Toasty Baked Snack Crackers, $3.99 for 12.4 ounces at Target

Credit: Ivy Manning

2. Unique Snacks Extra Dark Splits Pretzels

These burly pretzels taste just this side of burnt in the best possible way. They have a very crisp texture with lots of nooks and crannies, all the better to soak up mustard and creamy dips. Not for everyone, but those of you that turn your toaster up to 9 need to check these goodies out.

Buy: Unique Snacks Extra Dark Splits Pretzels, $3.79 for 11 ounces at Instacart

Credit: Ivy Manning

3. Dark Roasted Jumbo Peanuts

If you’re lucky, you’ll get a few deeply roasted nuts per bag of shell-on peanuts; it is perhaps the best part of going to a baseball game. The online retailer Nuts.com offers 1 pound bags of solely these roasty peanuts. Be prepared for hints of chocolate and coffee in varying degrees of dark that makes it very hard to stop eating. To date, they come in unsalted only, hopefully a salted version is on its way. Send letters. 

Buy: Dark Roasted Jumbo Peanuts (In Shell), $3.99 for 1 pound at Nuts.com

Do you have a favorite “extra-toasty” snack? Tell us about it in the comments below.