group of friends eating cookies

Consumers Crave Conscious Indulgence in Snacking

The trend in conscious indulgence continues to shape snacking preferences, with 64% of global consumers believing it’s okay to enjoy indulgent treats as part of a healthy diet.1 Explore how consumers are satisfying their cravings for both enjoyment and nutrition and what this means for food and beverage companies.

The Shift toward Conscious Indulgence

The craving for a decadent treat now and then, whether it’s cookies after a long workday or ice cream as a bedtime snack, is familiar to most of us. Even among the healthiest eaters, moments of feeling good matter. As more consumers seek to balance the desire for indulgent treats with healthy eating, what they’re looking for in a snack is shifting.

The trend in conscious indulgence represents the growing demand for indulgent treats that are healthier in some way than the traditional versions. This includes indulgent high-protein snacks such as protein cookies, muffins, and brownies, as well as ready-to-drink shakes and lattes that offer functional nutrition. Even smaller portions meet this trend—for example, protein or energy balls in decadent flavors.


Just Add Protein

Adding protein to an indulgent snack is a clear opportunity to achieve better-for-you positioning. Protein cookies, brownies, and snack cakes are all examples of products found in the sports nutrition section that have enormous potential to engage mainstream consumers. Like the wildly popular protein ice cream, these decadent protein-fortified bakery products are also lower in sugar and calories than their traditional counterparts.

The COVID lockdown has made indulgent high-protein snacks especially appealing due to their dual role in providing comfort as a sweet treat and supporting efforts toward healthy nutrition. According to Glanbia Nutritionals’ recent consumer survey, 29% of US consumers indicated they increased their consumption of protein cookies and brownies at the end of 2020.2 Protein-fortified brownie and muffin mixes are alternatives to ready-to-eat versions that work perfectly with the trend in home baking.


Functional Benefits

The indulgent treat that provides functional nutrition is another strategy to grab consumers' attention. Functional foods and beverages that can offer an indulgent experience range from ready-to-drink coffee beverages to shake mixes to bars. Bars in particular are known for their variety of decadent flavor options, with chocolate fudge brownie and peanut butter cup the top two preferred flavors, according to a Glanbia Nutritionals survey.3 Due to recent innovations in texture around layers and fillings, some of today's bars can even compete as healthier alternatives to snackfections.

Top-of-mind functional benefits for consumers include immune support and weight management, driven by the COVID situation. There is also an emerging interest in products with calming, focus-enhancing, and energy-boosting ingredients. Regardless of whether snacking is driven by health or indulgence reasons, taste is the thing to which most US consumers pay attention.

Snacking Made Delicious and Nutritious

These healthy snacking trends can help guide manufacturers in creating snacks that offer consumers the balanced approach to snacking they're looking for—snacks that provide a moment of bliss but still fit within a healthy lifestyle. Manufacturers of indulgent snacks can meet this growing demand by adding ingredients and nutrients that elevate their products to better-for-you snacks, while sports and functional nutrition companies can be mindful of flavor and texture choices to create a decadent experience consumers crave.

We offer a wide range of ingredient solutions for high-protein snacks, including functionally optimized dairy-based and plant-based proteins, and XtraProTM Seasonings—our innovative high-protein seasoning flavor system for savory snacks. Our extruded solution proteins and Crunchie™ bites and crisps provide a range of exceptional textures and a hearty crunch to snacks. As experts in the development of functional foods, we also provide custom premix solutions to bring you value no matter what stage of the formula process you are in. Collaborate with us to find out how we can make a high protein snack your consumers are sure to love. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Protein-fortified bars, bites, cookies, and brownies are all good protein snacks. Protein snacking is growing more and more popular, appealing to people on many fronts. Protein snacks are a healthy way to tide you over until mealtime; they provide satiety to help with weight management, and they support muscle recovery after a workout. The sweeter protein snacks like protein cookies and brownies also offer permissible indulgence.

Healthy snacks to eat at night are foods that are convenient, nutritious, and keep you full through the night. Snacks that contain protein or fiber are especially effective at providing satiety. Examples of healthy nighttime snacks are protein bars and bites, yogurts, and snacking cereals with added fiber or protein.

Healthy snacking cheese is cheese in a convenient, portable format, available in a small serving size, that delivers nutritional or even functional benefits. Healthy snacking cheeses range from traditional string cheese that comes individually wrapped to next-gen cheese snacks like baked or dried 100% cheese bars, puffs, and crisps. 

While all cheese is known for the nutritional benefits of protein and calcium, some newer snacking cheeses in the market (“plus” cheeses) also offer extra nutrients like vitamins A and B12 or functional ingredients like probiotics. In addition, some healthy snacking cheeses come in exciting sweet or savory flavors, while others are paired with nuts, dried fruits, meats, and crackers in combo packs.


1. FMCG Gurus, Top Trends for 2020, January 2020.
2. Glanbia Nutritionals Proprietary Consumer Report – Week 41, December 2020.
3. Glanbia Nutritionals Proprietary Consumer Study, January 2020.
4. FMCG Gurus, Healthy Snacking, Sept 2019.

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