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Portable Snacks: The Modern Snacker's Holy Grail

"Today and in the future, snacking is about solving small problems for consumers ..., " said David Portalatin of the NPD Group.1

So how can a snack food address consumer pain points? Portability and wellness are key, according to The NPD Group’s “Future of Snacking” report, with demands for these attributes forecast to grow. Learn why portability is more important than ever and why—to the consumer—portability and wellness go hand-in-hand.

Key Drivers of the Portable Snack Trend

It’s no secret that Americans are on-the-go. Today’s busy lifestyles plus the growth of single-person households have reduced the frequency of home-cooked, sit-down meals and pose a challenge to the three-meals-a-day tradition. Millennials are leading this trend, often eating snacks during commutes, while running errands, and in place of lunch.

For snacking consumers, the shift to a snacking culture holds no regrets. Snack foods are fun, delicious, and provide a mini taste adventure. They also offer unparalleled convenience with ready-to-eat and heat-and-eat options and portable formats, such as lightweight, single-serve cups, trays, and pouches. But make no mistake—today’s health-oriented, snack-loving foodies are not willing to trade in health for convenience.

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Why Functional Nutrition Matters So Much for Portable Snacks

The International Food Information Council Foundation reported in its “2019 Food & Health Survey” that 97 percent of Americans now snack at some point during the week, with 57 percent snacking at least once a day.2 These numbers underscore the important new role that snacks play in the typical daily diet. 

As the frequency of snacking increases, so too does the expectation for healthy snack food options—especially high protein and fiber, low and no added sugars, and a calorie content that’s not excessive. Today’s busy consumers are relying on snacks to cover their basic nutrition needs, particularly when snacks are consumed in place of meals. However, for portable snacks, which are used as pick-me-ups at work, for pre- and post-workout nutrition, and to support weight loss efforts, basic nutrition is not enough. 

Functional Nutrition: Above and Beyond

Snack foods with functional nutrition can address the specific health and wellness concerns that snacking consumers have. Not only do functional snacks offer unique health benefits to consumers, but they also stand out as the clear better-for-you snack choice on the shelf, providing a competitive advantage to manufacturers of functional snacks.

Examples of functional nutrition in snacks include:

  • Probiotics and prebiotic fibers for digestive health
  • DHA omega-3 fatty acids for heart and cognitive health
  • B vitamins and caffeine for energy
  • Amino acids for exercise recovery
  • MCTs to support weight loss for keto dieters
  • Protein to support strength, fitness and well-being

Functional Ways to Improve a Snack

An easy way to upgrade a snack food to a functional snack food is through a custom nutrient premix. First, a manufacturer chooses the functional ingredient or blend of ingredients that will address a specific, in-demand consumer need, along with the amount that will deliver the best effect. These ingredients could range from proteins containing properties optimized to work better in a certain snack or plant-based ingredients specifically for snacks that offer a great source of fiber and omegas.

Then, a custom nutrient premix is formulated from these ingredients, with adjustments made for uniform particle size (through milling or agglomeration) and a minimal taste and odor impact (through microencapsulation). Nutrition bars and cookies, cereal cups, and ready-to-drink beverages are some of the most popular portable snacks using a custom nutrient premix to deliver functional nutrition.


1. Schouten Rebekeh. (2019). The Future of snacking: Wellness, portability and unique experiences. Retrieved from https://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/13307-the-future-of-snacking-wellness-portability-and-unique-experiences
2. Pike, Alyssa. (2019). Snacking On the Rise: 2019 Food & Health Survey Results. Retrieved from https://foodinsight.org/snacking-on-the-rise-2019-food-health-survey-results/

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