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Snacking in China: Protein and Its Role in Snacking

Glanbia Nutritionals' new series on healthy snacking in China uses our in-depth consumer research to reveal trends and opportunities in healthy snacking. In part 2, we look at protein and its role in snacking.

Consumer Research Series on Healthy Snacking in China

For our 3-part series on healthy snacking in China, we surveyed 800 Chinese consumers to learn about their attitudes and behaviors around healthy snacking. In Part 1, Chinese Consumers and Healthy Snacking, we looked at the consumer landscape in China and consumer perceptions around healthy snacks. 

We saw that dairy-based and protein-fortified snacks are widely considered to be healthy by Chinese consumers and that their consumption has grown in the past year, shifting healthy snacking into the mainstream. 

In Part 2 of the series, we dive into snacking motivations and the role of protein in snacking. Part 3, Snacking Preferences and Barriers to Growth, will share insights on which attributes consumers look for in protein snacks, as well as obstacles to category growth.

Download our Snacking Guide to learn about the conscious indulgence trend and other global snacking trends.

Snacks: Trends for 2021 and Beyond

Snacks: Trends for 2021 and Beyond

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Why Chinese Consumers Snack

The Hartman Group’s modern snacking framework offers a way to understand how today’s consumers approach and think about snacking.1 The framework is based on four snacking drivers—nourishment, optimization, pleasure, and distraction—which capture how snacking motivations can shift, depending on the context, occasion, and individual.


In this context, we asked Chinese consumers to choose the factors that drive them to snack and found that distraction (80%) and pleasure (73%) are the main motivations. By contrast, only 36% snack for nourishment and 32% for optimization. This indicates that any snacking product needs to deliver on comfort and reward to succeed in China.

For protein bar users, 83% snack for distraction and 82% for pleasure—slightly higher compared to the total group. However, health and performance reasons are also very important to them, with 68% of protein bar users snacking for nourishment and 65% for optimization.

snacking in chna

When Chinese Consumers Choose Protein Snacks

When it comes to protein snacking, our research reveals something that seems to be unique to China. In China, protein-fortified snacks are being used to fulfill a wide variety of needs and occasions. Consumers are nearly as likely to choose protein-fortified snacks (including bars, shakes, and waters) as a daily kickstart and energy boost as they are for performance, to manage satiety, and for permissible indulgence.

In looking at snacking occasions, protein-fortified snacks are being used for anything from after-work snacking to meal replacement to sports and gym workouts. Even watching TV, playing video games, reading, and socializing are occasions for Chinese consumers to consume protein snacks. However, when we explore snack timing, protein clearly plays the most significant role for consumers in the morning.

Download our Protein Guide for an overview of the global protein market and tips on comparing protein sources.

The Essential Guide to Choosing a Protein Ingredient Partner

The Essential Guide to Choosing a Protein Ingredient Partner

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To read the third and final part of our consumer research series on healthy snacking in China, check back here or sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of the page. Part 3 looks at consumers’ preferred protein snack attributes and reveals key insights from non-users that indicate barriers to growth in the category.

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1.  Hartman Group, How Consumers Approach and Think About Snacking Today, June 15, 2021. 

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