Returns as of 11/18/2021
Returns as of 11/18/2021
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In this episode of Industry Focus, Motley Fool analysts Asit Sharma and Emily Flippen breakdown iFit’s S-1 filing in anticipation of a potential future listing.
To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool’s free podcasts, check out our podcast center. To get started investing, check out our quick-start guide to investing in stocks. A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Oct. 12, 2021.
Emily Flippen: Welcome to Industry Focus. Today is Tuesday, October 12th, and I’m your Consumer Goods host Emily Flippen. Today, I’m joined by Motley Fool analyst Asit Sharma to talk about iFit. It’s the fitness platform that’s attempting to disrupt at home workouts. Asit, thanks for joining.
Asit Sharma: Emily, thanks for having me and let me lob the first bad pun of this week to note that I fit this podcast in my busy schedule today.
Emily Flippen: Well, I and everybody listening certainly appreciate it. Although it might be worth noting before we get started that iFit actually, as I found out after preparing for today’s show, naturally. They temporarily postponed their IPO. Thanks to volatility that we’re seeing in the market today. It’s just still be fun to dig into it. I know I have a personal connection with this company, and hopefully, this information becomes useful when they decide to reenter public markets, hopefully once the volatilities come down. But until then, I guess this is a prequel to maybe IPO coming up.
Asit Sharma: Yeah, this is one that we were both looking forward to, Emily, because as you’re going to tell us, you’ve got some very regular connection with this company. Yeah, that consumer goods basket, we’re going to have to revisit. We looked at Peloton. I still like Peloton as investment, I know it hasn’t had a great year, but maybe going through iFit will also give us some more perspective on the industry at large.
Emily Flippen: It certainly did. I have to say, I was really excited to dig into this because I’m an iFit user myself. I believe late last year, I got myself a NordicTrack bike, which is powered by the iFit platform. I really think I fit, in my opinion, does a great job of providing some of the same experiences that you’d get with Peloton. In fact, if you’re familiar with Peloton’s business model, you’re probably already familiar with what iFit does. They make the equipment like NordicTrack, they’re the manufacturer, but they’re also a platform for on-demand classes. When I pulled up the iFit S-1 and started just scroll through it, I found myself already excited because right there in one of the front pages was an iFit trainer. I frequently watches classes, sometimes live, Gideon Akande. He was right there in the filing, and I was excited. I was a member of this community, I felt like I was seeing a friend. I think iFit does do a similar job of Peloton in creating those feelings among users. At least, if my experience has anything to say about it.
Asit Sharma: I think it’s a powerful business model, myself. To me, what interested me overall about this company is that Peloton punched out the awareness of the connected fitness industry, so it’s the first mover. Maybe not the first mover as you’re going to relate to us, but it’s certainly is one that’s captured a lot of fitness enthusiasts imagination. But here we’ve got a company which also has very well-known brands on the hardware side and a robust offering of content. For those of you who might think, “Well, this is like a second choice to Peloton.” maybe not as great equipment or maybe the classes aren’t as wide reaching or fun, after reading through the S-1 and just poking around on the web. Now, I don’t use the products. I didn’t feel that at all, I felt like it’s just as good an offering and there’s no reason not to weigh buying, say a NordicTrack and subscribing to iFit’s services versus buying a Peloton and getting on their platform.
Emily Flippen: I will say, I think both the businesses or I should say platforms have moved in the same direction. I think their level of content that you’ll get on both is relatively similar, that the average consumer probably has a hard time pulling it apart. The difference is that eye-drop between what iFit got started with versus Peloton is, Peloton was very focused on the studio experience. In fact, their bikes weren’t built originally with the inclined and declined functions. It was studio experience intended to give you the stimulation of being in a live cycling class. Heavy focus on cycling, and they’ve obviously since expanded out into other avenues. Whereas iFit started with what was the experiential aspect of biking, which is, “We’re going to go outdoors, we’re going to show you a cool trail, we’re going to go up and down a mountain.” and then got into the studio and the live class experience. Maybe if your focus is on biking outdoors and nature, you might be inclined to go to iFit before Peloton. If you prefer the studio live class experience, Peloton as opposed to iFit. Although, again, it’s worth knowing both of them do both now, so they truly are competitive in this space. But what I found really interesting is that iFit sounds like a new fancy tech start-up. When I got my NordicTrack, I had no idea that the iFit platform and the NordicTrack where both owned by the same company. The parent company which recently only changed its name to iFit is actually a really old business. The company that would eventually evolve into iFit today was actually founded as a company called Weslo back in 1977 by the current CEO and founder Scott Watterson. It’s a really old business, a really interesting story.
Asit Sharma: Yeah. In 1977, I was walking around as a kid in bell-bottom jeans and Buster Brown shoes. That’s the brand. [laughs] This is way back, Emily. Weslo started in the imported furniture business, importing furniture from Asia, worked its way along to selling grills into exercise equipment. Watterson eventually sold the Weslo business to a company called Weider Health and Fitness in 1989, but he stayed on as CEO. I think this is important because you’ve got in the CEO, a real veteran of the business, whose seen the complete evolution from those first bikes to what we have today with so much technology embedded exercise equipment. By 1994, Weslo was sold off again, this time to Bain Capital, who we mentioned on an off on this show as investors in various consumer goods companies. They started to market more aggressively and penetrate that health and fitness market. They added the brand, NordicTrack, purchased that, and FreeMotion, and then changed the name of the company to Icon Health & Fitness in 2010. This is where the company really started to transition into the company we know today as iFit. Now, in 2015, Foley started to have some success with Peloton. Watterson purchased the majority stake in iFit back from Bain Capital, which is not rare in this industry. Bain Capital, again, is a private equity firm. They’re there to extract as much value as they can from the companies they invest in. A lot of times, that simply means cutting employees and squeezing [laughs] every last bit of juice out of a company’s operations, but in some cases they will invest into growing industry as they did in this case. Watterson took a page from Peloton’s playbook and you mentioned that the live and prerecorded classes, he added that element.
Emily Flippen: Yeah, that is so interesting. John Foley, the CEO and founder of Peloton, actually reportedly came to Eikon, but it’s today iFit, back in 2013. He was asking for information and help on developing a stationary bike. iFit essentially turned them away, They said, “We’re not giving you any of this stuff, leave.” Then Foley went on to create what is today Peloton and had a ton of success with it. That’s actually what kicked off at this point, which probably going to be a decades long legal battle between iFit and Peloton, about who owns the proprietary information behind the idea of a connected fitness bike. While the big losses have been settled, you’ll note noting through their S-1 that they’re still in a handful of legal battles with Peloton over things like the inclined, decline. Over the automatically adjustable resistance levels. These things that one business says they did before the other. Ultimately, I think an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind, and that’s probably what we’re going to see here. If I were these businesses, I’d be much more focused on creating a ecosystem that keeps people sticky. We’ll talk about the numbers, but I think Peloton has done that better than iFit, at least so far.
Asit Sharma: Yeah, the one thing that iFit has done is to maybe over focus on looking over its shoulder, Emily. They have over 400 issued and pending patents. It’s as if all along they knew that they have to patent every last step. That takes a lot of energy on management’s part. In the industry like this, it almost sounds excessive to me. Maybe you have a point there of where investment and focus should be, it’s more about creating that ecosystem. But what can you tell us about the members? This really stood out to me as something that begins to look persuasive in investment thesis. Although the companies got a few caveats that turned me off a bit, but this is a bright part of the business.
Emily Flippen: Yes. There’s over six million members. I should clarify that a member isn’t necessarily a paying subscriber. Right now, the parent company, iFit, has over 1 1/2 active subscribers. Within those active subscribers, there are people who are authorized users on a primary subscribers account, who would be considered members. People who are consuming free content from iFit, those people would also be considered members. Lots of members, less paying subscriber. But they’ve had nearly three billion dollars in gross merchandise value, which would make them the largest provider of fitness equipment in the United States by that GMV. They are very large prominent provider, and you’re probably already familiar with a lot of their brands. We mentioned NordicTrack, the sales of NordicTrack machines make up more than 50 percent of their revenue, but they’ve also acquired ProForm, which is a quarter of revenue. iFit subscriptions themselves, that platform we’re consuming the content. Those are only around another 13 percent. Right now, the subscription revenue is a pretty small part of this total revenue pie. That’s important to note because when somebody comes in and they purchase, like myself, I have a NordicTrack bike. Buy a NordicTrack bike, you get one-year of that iFit subscription for free. Then after that, they start charging. That subscription, I believe it’s $15 a month individually, $39 a month if you want a family of five users. That’s where the business is trying to get more and more of its revenue, that’s recurring revenue that’s really, really high margin revenue. But right now, it’s still very much a hardware business.
Asit Sharma: This is so interesting, Emily, that the company has such an investment in experiential content as well to make their subscribers members want to renew. The way I think of this industry is you have Peloton on one side, which is more equipment focus. All the way to spectrum of Lululemon’s Mirror, which encompasses things like yoga, meditation, etc. But as you mentioned when we were preparing this episode. They’ve got pretty much everything that you can think of on their platform, which includes rowers, spinning. The yoga meditation that I was just talking about. This is something that the company exhibits a lot of strength in. They integrate this content seamlessly into touchscreen enabled hardware. If you’ve got an iFit bike or treadmill, not only do classes automatically adjust, but they learn from your fitness level. There is an element of, I would hesitate to call this like great AI. But I would say there’s some element of machine learning in this. As the software is learning your experience level, you can adjust that. It will take you into another experiential fitness expedition, like hiking to ever space camp. You can adjust those settings back downward if it’s too much. I found that aspect pretty intriguing. Now, here’s a statistic that gave you a little bit of pause. I think let me see exactly what you’ve made it. This 16 percent of iFit subscribers who have been on the platform for more than three years have purchased multiple pieces of equipment. Emily, you said when we were playing this episode, am I the only one who’s not really impressed with this? What did you mean by that?
Emily Flippen: Well, they define an a multiple piece of equipment as owning more than one connected fitness product. Somebody comes in like myself, who buys a connected NordicTrack bike. That has the screen on it, the touch screen that I’m paying for that iFit subscription with, somebody who would own multiple pieces of equipment would then say, oh man, I really wish I could have participated in that Everest base camp hike. That was something that was done on the treadmill equipment, not on the NordicTrack bike. After having a good experience on that bike, the next step would be then, OK, well, I’m going to buy the treadmill. Then I get access to the iFit content of treadmill based workouts. I can have both of those things in my universe. I know Peloton has spent a lot of time talking about how they’d create this flywheel effect with their ecosystem. Or when somebody comes in, they keep that average lifetime value really high because they’re more likely to make future purchases. To meet that number was really overwhelming. We’ve already limited the sample supplies there to people who have been paying for iFit for more than three years. These are people pre-pandemic. These are people who are fitness enthusiasts. They were getting on the NordicTrack and iFit training very early. For those people that are still around paying after three-years, only 16 percent of them have made that decision to own more than one piece of equipment. That number could’ve been higher and I’d have gotten more excited. I almost feel like adding that in distracted. In my excitement, I appreciate knowing it beforehand, but it certainly didn’t add to the story in my opinion.
Asit Sharma: Yes. If anything, it raised more questions. Well, let’s move on to financials and just make a few big picture observations. Interactive hardware revenue is the lion’s share of this company’s topline. It’s 87 percent of total revenue, 54 percent is generated from retail partners, think Amazon, Best Buy, Dick’s, Costco, etc. They’ve got a good direct-to-consumer component that’s 44 percent of the business. This interactive hardware piece has grown 108 percent year-over-year. Before COVID, it was growing at a rate of 16 percent year-over-year. But it’s only got a gross margin of 35 percent, while that’s up from 26 percent in 2019. For anyone who’s been listening for the past year or so, I have a thumbnail that I will point you to for any kind of manufacturing and then you can smooth it there based on the sector or industry. But start with a 50 percent plus gross margin. If you’re manufacturing any kind of widget, you are usually doing, OK when you consider your fixed expenses. That’s a bit of a slim margin. Subscription revenue from iFit makes up the remaining 13 percent of revenue. As you might expect, that subscription revenue is growing very quickly and it’s highly profitable. The subscription revenue grew 85 percent year-over-year in the most recent year. It was also growing pretty briskly. Vis-a-vis that interactive hardware before COVID grew 65 percent year-over-year at the year before COVID. Gross margin in this business is about 87 percent, which I really liked. Emily, what are your observations about these margins?
Emily Flippen: While you would just think that as more revenue come from subscription revenue, which is higher margin, as well as general improvements in both gross margins on the hardware side and the subscription side, that this business, if not being profitable, would at least have a declining net loss as a percentage of revenue. But in reality, it’s actually the opposite. Operating losses, their percentage of revenue grew from 3 percent in 2019 to over 7 percent in 2021. This is just because of how much money they are funneling into sales and marketing expenses. That was up more than 120 percent year-over-year. They’re really saying, we’re not looking at cash right now. Again, they’re not even operating cash flow positive this year because they are spending so much money trying to compete with other, I should say, competitors in the market. Peloton is just one of these competitors. It’s probably the most formidable. But since iFit has product lines that range in the price of a few $100 to a few $1,000, not only are they competing with Peloton at the high-end, but they’re competing with cheaper brands at the low-end as well. They’re all across the spectrum here. I do wish that I had seen these margins getting better with time. Although I guess I can understand the mentality of if you really believe that the value of your customers so high, that it’s worth it to spend a ton of cash on marketing to pull them into the ecosystem early, then I can buy on. We’ll get to this, but I just don’t see that leverage in their numbers as it exists today.
Asit Sharma: A little wary of that potential for leverage going forward. All that marketing spend, yes, it drove a doubling of fitness subscribers last year. Revenue doubled. But management really sees the hardware business as the key toward driving the ecosystem further. This margin model, if anything, might show further slacking, meaning it’s going to have even less operating leverage. The company bulked up on inventory over the past four quarters. It increased at eight fold to 403 million. This is partly a reflection of a greater, higher sales level. But it’s also a reflection of management going ahead and manufacturing more products. They’re manufacturing models, actually an outsourced model. But still what they’re doing with their cash is bulking up that balance sheet for future sales to drive that hardware part of their business. I’m a little skeptical of that. I almost wish they would slow down, take the foot off the gas pedal a little bit and let the ecosystem evolve more organically. I think it would have a better near-term impact on margins and it might be a better way to grow the business over the longer-term.
Emily Flippen: I was bumped by that too. As an iFit user myself, my focus has always been when I get on that bike and I try to get on that bike at least once a day. Although I will admit, I’m lazy here and there. Last week, I took the entire week off, for instance. But when I get on the bike, I’m not thinking about the equipment. I’m not to keep up the hardware. I’m thinking, well, what class am I going to do today? What new cool thing do I have on the platform? I look forward to what’s next and I expected this to read a lot more focus on man, we’re creating just a really sticky ecosystem of subscription level of revenue that’s going to keep people engaged. But the focus on hardware makes me a bit concerned, especially as we head into what’s probably going to be, and I think we’ve seen it a bit with Peloton’s results. A challenging time for hardware workout equipment manufacturers to sell-through, especially at the rate that they did in 2020.
That’s made all the much more concerning to me when I look at some of the numbers they broke down. I’m bumped because they didn’t provide a ton of great information, but they did at least break down their lifetime value per customer to their customer acquisition costs. I was really happy to see that their definitions for both of those terms were virtually exactly the same as Peloton’s, which provided a nice one-to-one comparison when we look back at Peloton’s IPO and the value of their customers versus iFit’s. One of the metrics they broke down in addition to that was actually their net monthly churn by cohort. We talked about this so much for Peloton. Peloton has an impressively low monthly churn. It’s always been below 1 percent. Most recently, 0.85 percent. That’s for all of their products. They have a pretty high level of retention. NordicTrack’s monthly churn, a lot more challenging. They say it’s 2.3 percent in the most recent quarter, but they are excluding a lot of product sales as a part of that. If you include all of their product sales, the churn becomes closer to three percent. It’s significantly higher than Peloton’s.
Asit Sharma: Again, that’s a per month number. [laughs] For those of you who are listening and saying, wait a minute, that’s a per month numbers. That’s very high. Emily, we just have a few minutes left. I want to ask you for any further thoughts on customer acquisition costs. I guess we should move to risks. I’ve got a couple of things and you’ve got a couple of things to point out as well. Any final thoughts on that long-term value per subscriber?
Emily Flippen: Just that it’s not as impressive as you would hope that it would be their lifetime value per touchscreen products subscriber. Again, not all their customers was around $566. For NordicTrack, that numbers around $3,500, so significantly higher. While both NordicTrack and Peloton do have a customer acquisition cost that is greater than that lifetime value right now. For Peloton, it’s closer to five dollars per customer. For iFit, more than $57 per customer. They’re losing money on every customer acquired. I think it’s an example of the type of person that buys a NordicTrack versus a Peloton or any iFit product. They are coming because they’re getting a slightly cheaper product. They’re not buying for the ecosystem. When that one-year membership is over, they’re more likely to churn because they bought the bike, they didn’t buy the platform. If you are a Peloton subscriber, yes, you’re buying the bike, but in reality, you’re buying the brand, you’re buying the platform. You want to stay a member of that, so you’re less likely to churn when your membership comes up for renewal.
Asit Sharma: Brand has so much to do with, I think Peloton’s ability to retain its customers to keep that churn low. Just a risk here, I wanted to point out, this risks arise at the use of proceeds, which is one of the sections I read first in an S-1. The company is going to be refinancing some debt that’s on the books. It expects that net about 465 million bucks. Part of that will be used to pay down around 300 million in existing notes, and they’ve got some preferred shares they want to redeem, which are $262 million worth. They’re going to come away with this, with still net debt on the books. The CEO is going to receive a onetime award of 35 million dollars, which isn’t specified as exactly what the prominence of it is it an incentive for taking a company public, etc, we don’t know. That’s OK. What is a little concerning to me is that the company has about $53.2 million in loans to management on books, and additionally one loan to an unnamed executive for 9.3 million.
Now, in preparation for this IPO, to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the company forgave these $62.5 million worth of loans that management owed the company, so that they could go public and be in compliance with the Securities and Registration Acts and the Sarbanes-Oxley level of compliance that came much later. What concerns me is now the company’s pulled its IPO Emily, because of market conditions. What if they decide never to go public, we’ve seen this happen so many times. In essence, the management team will have received $62.5 million worth of loan forgiveness, i.e. income. It just reminds me that this is a company that has been held for a long time. Run is almost a family business which is a risk we’re going to talk about here in a second. Sometimes, it takes a little bit of shifting for management team to act like a public company rather than one that’s run by just a closely knit family and group of hands. But this segues into a risks that you want to talk about.
Emily Flippen: Yeah, it’s a bit disingenuous isn’t it and the risks that I want to talk about was, something that we typically associate as a good thing with the business, which is that this is a founder-led business controlled and operated by CEO/founder. Typically, that’s a good thing, and there are some things I do like about the ownership structure. One thing that we haven’t mentioned is that, Planet Fitness is actually a minority owner in this business. They have some interesting partnerships with them. But the big risk here is that it’s not just the founder/CEO, it’s a family business. When I see a ton of family that not to be rude, is otherwise not necessarily qualified for the roles that they are sitting in. It starts to make me a little bit nervous, and so the Chief Experience Officer, the Chief Strategy Officer, the Chief Operating Officer, and the Chief Marketing Officer are all family of Scott Watterson’s, and even more concerning is the fact that none of them have professional experience prior to coming onto iFit. So they all went straight out of undergrad into the company. Well, they’ve been in their roles for a long time. It does make me wonder if this company was genuine about ever wanting to go public. These are people who are otherwise probably wouldn’t be qualified to sit in their roles at a public company. Management is getting that $60 million kickback for just have been filed in the first place. It does strike me as a little bit, I guess shady is the word I’m looking for.
Asit Sharma: I mean, we’ll see time will tell, but it’s not a good look to begin with, so we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now, Emily. But I share your concerns, especially with this element of having group of family members elevated to basically the C-suite. It’s sometimes hard to get the correct amount of push back, and tug between consensus, decision-making and thoughtful exercises, where people aren’t afraid to contribute their opinions. In family businesses, sometimes, you see a dominant founder, i.e. dad, can exert over sized influence on the rest of the management team. I’m not sure how that translates into the public sphere.
Emily Flippen: Well lets hope we understand when to keep our eye on regardless. Selfishly, I hope that this business does continue to put a ton of money into the iFit platform because as the user myself, I am a big fan. But as an investor, I have not sweating the fact that I own Peloton shares, not iFit shares, even if they were publicly available. Simply because the metrics that we’ve been provided here make me think that one has set itself apart from the other.
Asit Sharma: For sure. Well, Emily, this was a lot of fun and I feel much more fit after this exercise for the last half hour. Thanks so much.
Emily Flippen: Thanks for joining me and thank you for the puns as always. Listeners, that does it for this episode of Industry Focus. If you have any questions or just want to reach out to say, hey. You can shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @mfindustryfocus. As always, people on the program may own companies discussed on the show and The Motley Fool may have formal recommendations for or against any stocks mentioned, so don’t buy or sell anything based solely on what you hear. Thanks to Tim Sparks for his work behind the screen today. For Asit Sharma. I’m Emily Flippen. Thanks for listening and Fool on!
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Echelon Fitness Offers Workouts with ProFootball Alums – PRNewswire
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Jan 19, 2022, 11:32 ET
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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Jan. 19, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Echelon, the connected fitness company revolutionizing the way people move, is offering an exclusive series of live, in-studio connected bike rides with former professional football players.
Now through February 13, 2022, former professional players join Echelon instructors on an interview-style ride and include alums from the Tennessee Titans, Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The rides take place at 6:30pm EST with the following schedule:
1/3/22 – Martín Gramática (now-On-Demand)
1/10/22 – Dorsey Levens (now-On-Demand)
1/17/22 – Ricky Watter (now-On-Demand)
1/24/22 – Fred Taylor LIVE!
1/31/22 – Reggie Wayne LIVE!
2/7/22 – Jevon "The Freak" Kearse LIVE!
"We are thrilled to continue to bring motivating athletes and content to our members. Our special guests boast 17 championship wins among them," said Kevin Custer, Chief Content Officer, Echelon Fitness. "We know how competitive these guys are, even off the field. We are excited to see how they will use their reputations and competitiveness to pump up members to support their favorite teams and players."
The rides will be live and also available On Demand on the member app. For more information about Echelon Fitness go to https://echelonfit.com/.
Echelon has revolutionized at-home fitness since 2017 with a range of smart exercise equipment and an immersive membership experience. What began as a mission to make healthy living accessible to all has evolved to a thriving, global brand. Echelon empowers everyone to experience the feeling of elation and accomplishment after achieving their fitness goals. Members connect their Echelon smart bikes, rowers, treadmills, or fitness mirrors to the Echelon Fit app for access to live and on-demand workout classes filmed at Echelon studios around the world and led by professional instructors. Through the app, members track performance and progress in real-time, compete on the interactive Leaderboard and explore more than 2,000 off-equipment workouts to keep them motivated and inspired. For more information, visit echelonfit.com.
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The 13 Best Healthy Snacks in 2022 – Eat This, Not That
We’ve consulted with our team of licensed nutritionists and dietitians to bring you informed recommendations for food products, health aids and nutritional goods to safely and successfully guide you toward making better diet and nutrition choices. We strive to only recommend products that adhere to our philosophy of eating better while still enjoying what you eat.
With a ton of restaurants closed, cooking fatigue still going strong from 2020, and nothing else to do but curl up on the couch and binge-watch yet another TV show, snacks became much more than comfort food during 2021. Snacks were one of the primary ways Americans nourished themselves.
While many of us gravitated towards childhood favorites (think sugary cereals or neon-colored chips) to satisfy our cravings, others were on the lookout for some more health-supporting options. Thankfully, food brands were on the same page—so much so that a whopping 100 new healthy snacks that launched nationwide between January 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021 on grocery store shelves were nominated for the 2022 Eat This, Not That! Food Awards.
In the end, 13 snack products stood out from the rest with their impressive nutrition and great taste. Eat This, Not That! Medical Expert Board member Lauren Manaker, MS, RD, CDN, helped rate the products and choose the winners, then we taste-tested each one. Read on for our honest reviews—and to see where you can buy the winners!
Watch out taste test video and check out how each winner ranked below.
A meal in a bar, this keto offering is billed as “curry without the rice.” It’s made with cauliflower, coconut, nuts, spinach, prebiotic fiber, and a blend of Indian spices.
The expert’s take: “A savory bar allows for awesome flavor without having to worry about added carbs. Made with all-natural ingredients like real cauliflower, spinach, and nuts, these bars are a perfect on-the-go option that isn’t loaded with artificial sweeteners that can sometimes be hard to tolerate,” says Manaker.
Our tasting notes: “The complexity of flavors here is unmatched by any other snack I’ve ever tried, but the earthiness threw me off based on what my brain has been primed to expect when eating a meal bar,” says Senior Editor Olivia Tarantino.
Instead of kettle corn, try kettle sorghum! This ancient grain is a fraction of the size of corn, which delivers tiny pops of crunchy deliciousness in every bag.
The expert’s take: “Sorghum is an ancient grain that is naturally packed with antioxidants. And if you are a popcorn lover but you hate those little kernels that get stuck in your teeth, popped sorghum is your best bet. Plus, the sorghum is a natural source of fiber, making it a snack that also supports gut health,” says Manaker.
Our tasting notes: “I’m not usually a fan of anything ‘caramel’ flavored—and that’s because it’s typically done with fake flavors. You’ll find none of that here. The flavors are pure and crisp, but the super tiny size of each of the kernels makes this snack a little bit harder to eat than a big bag of popcorn,” says Tarantino.
These crackers are a gluten-free, grain-free dupe of that childhood classic square cheese crunch. Rather than being made of wheat and cheese, they use a blend of cassava flour and green banana flour that utilizes otherwise wasted bananas and turns them into flour.
The expert’s take: “Using green banana flour in these crackers gives this snack some natural prebiotic fiber, which can help support a healthy gut microbiome. These gluten-free crackers are made with natural ingredients to offer a simple option to accompany snacktime,” says Manaker.
Our tasting notes: “I didn’t expect much cheese flavor based on the brown color of the cracker, but boy, was I surprised. These thin squares are mighty flavorful and tasty without needing any dairy—the ‘cheezish’ flavor comes from a balanced blend of yeast extract and spices,” says Tarantino.
Chosen Foods thought, “Everyone likes guacamole and salsa, so why don’t we combine them?” And we were subsequently in awe of their genius. This avocado-based salsa combines perfectly-ripe Haas avocados with tomatillo, jalapeño, lime juice, sea salt, garlic, onion, cilantro, and that’s it—absolutely no synthetic preservatives!
The expert’s take: “This salsa is only made with natural ingredients and no preservatives. And since we are all going avocado crazy these days, it is nice to see real avocados as the first ingredient listed on the food label,” says Manaker.
Our tasting notes: “If you like green salsa but are always slightly disappointed that you can’t get more of it on your chip because it’s just a little too thin, then you need to try this version. The avocado provides integrity (and healthy fats) to this tomatillo salsa, making it perfectly dippable,” says Tarantino.
Just before you thought cauliflower couldn’t turn into another type of snack food, REAL FOOD FROM THE GROUND UP said, “Hold my drink.” Cauliflower pairs with gluten-free cassava flour as the base for these low-fat, veggie-packed potato chips.
The expert’s take: “Some cauliflower-based snacks totally miss the boat when it comes to flavor. But REAL FOOD FROM THE GROUND UP Sour Cream and Onion Cauliflower Potato Chips nail it in both the taste and the nutrition department. Made with real cauliflower and a veggie blend that contains spinach, broccoli, carrot, tomato, beet, and shiitake mushrooms, noshing on these crispy snacks is a great swap for potato chip lovers (and who isn’t a potato chip lover?). Not only that, this Sour Cream & Onion flavor is dairy-free, so the snack is entirely plant-based and vegan,” says Manaker.
Our tasting notes: “Wow, can you say, ‘healthy Pringle?’ The sour cream and onion flavor is spot-on for what I was expecting, but the cassava and cauliflower give this chip a much more delicate texture compared to potato-based Pringles, which is extremely refreshing,” says Tarantino.
You’ve never had energy bites quite like this before. Malua’s bites are made with a blend of prebiotic green banana powder and superfoods to nourish your microbiome: a community of trillions of bacteria that exists in your gut and supports many aspects of your health, from your immunity to your mood.
The expert’s take: “This snack is made with nourishing ingredients like peanut butter and cocoa. And while many protein snacks double as a sugar bomb, these only contain 3 grams of sugar per ball. Using date syrup helps make these snacks a good choice, as this sweetener is considered to be a lower glycemic option vs. table sugar, potentially helping prevent blood sugar spikes. With no preservatives and nothing artificial, these snacks are a good-for-you option that packs a punch in the nutrition department,” says Manaker.
Our tasting notes: “Nothing super-crazy is happening texturally here. The bites have the texture of a chewy fig bar, and they are perfectly portioned,” says Tarantino.
There’s no gelatin, glucose syrup, or artificial ingredients here. These organic gummies contain only two ingredients—mango and vitamin—for a simply sweet whole-food-based snack.
The expert’s take: “These snacks are made with natural mango that is naturally sweet—eliminating the need to add any sugar to this snack. The individual snack size bags make them easy to enjoy on the go and even pack in a child’s lunch box. And since they are made with only two ingredients, nobody has to question what they are putting into their body,” says Manaker.
Our tasting notes: “If you’re a mango fan, you’re going to love this snack because it tastes of pure mango. Unlike dried mango strips that are a bit hard and fibrous, Solely’s bites are tender with a light chew that will help slow you down so you don’t down the entire pouch in one handful (which is very possible based on how tasty they are!),” says Tarantino.
Gone are the days of deep-fried potatoes. Say hello to the best innovation in crunchy snacking: Bada Bean Bada Boom. These crunchy bean snacks are made from whole broad beans that are baked and then dusted with a crispy layer of flavor-packed seasoning.
The expert’s take: “Everything but the bagel seasoning goes well on just about everything—including fava beans! Having a snack that is packed with plant-based protein, natural fiber, and antioxidants is important when trying to tackle hunger. And with the satisfying taste of everything but the bagel seasoning included in this snack, noshing on them can make snack time both enjoyable and nourishing,” says Manaker.
Our tasting notes: “To me, nothing is as satisfying as a crunchy snack, and these broad beans certainly fit the bill. While they’re not a perfect dupe of your favorite bagel, notes of garlic and onion do come through for an umami-rich bite. The bag may be small and the calories low, but your stomach will be full and happy once you’ve polished it off (thanks to it being a great source of protein and fiber),” says Tarantino.
This is going to be your new favorite flaming hot cheese snack! These cheese crisps are made of 100% baked cheddar cheese and simply seasoned with a blend of spices reminiscent of everyone’s go-to bar food: buffalo wings.
The expert’s take: “Hot and spicy usually also means fried when it comes to snacks. But Whisps’ Hot & Spicy cheese crisps, baked with 100% cheddar and spices, have 9 grams of protein and only 2 grams of carbs per serving, making these a craveable yet healthy snack,” says Manaker.
Our tasting notes: “Whisps are a cheese snack that knows how to balance crispy and buttery. These cheddar cheese crisps don’t break into a million pieces upon first bite—there’s a solid amount of integrity that makes it easy to eat each crisp in two bites (but you probably won’t have to be concerned with that after finishing your first one). This high-protein, low-carb snack is tangy, yet packs a little less heat than I expected. Alas, it makes polishing off the entire bag much more enjoyable than eating through it with your mouth feeling like it’s on fire,” says Tarantino.
Biltong is like jerky—but better. Specifically, biltong is a process for preserving meat by air drying that uses no sugar, MSG, gluten, nitrates, or preservatives.
The expert’s take: “Meat snacks can make for a great choice for people who are focused on eating protein-rich snacks without a ton of carbs. But unfortunately, many options can be loaded with nitrates and nitrites—ingredients that have been linked to some unsavory health outcomes. This biltong uses vinegar as a preservative instead of what we commonly see used in jerkys and other meat snacks, making this option a safer choice when supporting your overall health,” says Manaker.
Our tasting notes: “The meat is thinly sliced, making it mouth-meltingly tender but also somewhat crispy (in a good way). The peppered bag should be a go-to for anyone looking for a solid protein snack, but it might be lacking for those in search of a flavor bomb,” says Tarantino.
CORE Bars need to be refrigerated because they’re made with real food (not preservatives). This bar contains prebiotics and probiotics for an all-in-one gut health solution that supports healthy digestion and a satisfied stomach, thanks to 6 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber per bar.
The expert’s take: “Enjoying these bars makes it simple to support gut health, thanks to the prebiotics and probiotics they contain. And thanks to the addition of ingredients like roasted peanuts and chia seeds, these bars also contain a boost of healthy fats that our bodies need to function properly. These bars are a great solution for busy people who tend to skip probiotic-rich foods like yogurts, kefir, and other fermented foods,” says Manaker.
Our tasting notes: “If your favorite candy as a kid was an Almond Joy, man do I have the snack for you. This is like a grown-up version of the classic coconut candy that isn’t cloyingly sweet. Unlike other meal replacement bars that either fall apart after one bite or take forever to chew because they’re mostly dried fruit, CORE Bars strike the perfect balance of bite-worthy texture and incredible flavor,” says Tarantino.
These aren’t your average chocolate-covered nuts. Somehow, Skinny Dipped has figured out a way to delicately coat these cashews with a thin, velvety layer of rich chocolate that tastes like the finest truffle you’ve ever had.
The expert’s take: “I love how these snacks contain plant-based protein to help promote satiety. And these Skinny Dipped snacks have just enough chocolate to satisfy cravings without going overboard. Dark chocolate is a natural source of antioxidants and contains important minerals like magnesium and copper. So, enjoying these sweet treats also gives your body some important nutrition,” says Manaker.
Our tasting notes: “These cashews have a chocolatey taste that rivals any high-end chocolate you’ve been gifted for Valentine’s Day. They’re perfectly crunchy, slightly salty, and sweet enough to satisfy any sugar cravings,” says Tarantino.
Toodaloo brought trail mix into the 21st century. This nut and seed blend is made with healing, adaptogenic herbs and real superfoods like roasted chickpeas, nuts, and seeds.
The expert’s take: “Some nut mixes can be packed with ingredients like sugar and unhealthy oils, but this mix contains no added sugars and is loaded with natural flavors like lemon peel and chiles. Plus, the adaptogenic ingredients are an added bonus to help people keep their ‘chill’—and who doesn’t need that these days?” says Manaker.
Our tasting notes: “Goodbye my sweet, sweet BBQ potato chips! This trail mix boasts the same addictive flavors of my favorite bag of chips but with an incredible textural complexity thanks to a blend of five different nuts, seeds, and legumes. I literally eat these by the handful,” says Tarantino.
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