woman drinking green juice

Healthy Snacking Trends for 2021

Consumers’ expectations for snacks are changing, with healthy snack options becoming a new priority to meet today’s lifestyle needs. Check out the emerging healthy snacking trends for 2021 and learn how manufacturers can deliver the healthy snacks consumers are seeking.

2021 Healthy Snacking Trends

With modern snacking continuing to shift toward better-for-you options, it’s important for manufacturers to understand what’s motivating consumers' snack choices. For example, Millennials tend to use snacks to replace meals because of their busy lifestyles, while Gen X has an interest in cutting down on sweet snacks; many Boomers are actively making changes to their diets to become healthier.1 Although consumers’ needs in snacks may be varied, some clear trends are emerging. 

Here’s a look at the 2021 healthy snacking trends:

1. Fresh

In a survey by Mintel of U.S. adults who snack, 68% report fresh ingredients as the most important snack claim, followed by low/no sugar at 61% and high protein at 60%.2 In addition, FMCG Gurus reports that U.S. consumers are most likely to choose fruit as a snack (72%), followed by yogurt (65%)—another fresh snack choice.3 From ready-to-drink protein juice smoothies to snacking cheeses to refrigerated bars, expect the appeal of fresh perimeter snacking to grow as more consumers embrace a healthy eating lifestyle.

2. Less Sugar

The less sugar trend is showing up across multiple food categories with claims that include reduced sugar, low sugar, no sugar, and no added sugars. While savory snacks—such as roasted chickpea snacks, ancient grain crackers, and veggie chips—have an inherent advantage here, great strides are being made in creating delicious, low and no sugar nutrition and snack bars, as well as sports nutrition and meal replacement beverages. Consumer preference for clean label has made stevia a go-to ingredient for manufacturers working to meet the growing demand for lower sugar snacks.


3. High Protein

The popularity of high-protein snacks is another top trend, with 51% of global consumers stating they’ve switched from traditional snack products like chocolate and confections to high protein/low sugar alternatives.4 Millennials are driving this interest in high-protein snacks which provide satiety and work well as meal replacements. The bar category continues to be strongly affected by this trend, with protein bars leading category growth. Of global snack bar launches in 2019, 1 in 3 featured a high protein claim.

4. Minis/Bites

Another key aspect of today’s healthy snacking is portion control. Miniature, bite-sized portions of traditional snacks represent a fun and innovative approach to this. From mini flaxseed crisps to seed cubes to superfood bites, tiny snacks offer consumers a new way to experience some of their favorite foods. Snack bite offerings continue to expand with options such as energy bites, paleo bites, breakfast bites, and of course, protein bites. With their high protein, indulgent flavors, and built-in portion control, protein bites are checking all the boxes. 

5. Functional Nutrition

Snacks that offer functional nutrition represent the next frontier in healthy snacking. Leading functional snack trends include energy, focus, and calming/relaxation.6 Functional foods and beverages especially popular as snacks include bars and ready-to-drink beverages. Clear messaging around the product’s benefits is key as consumers may not always be familiar with the individual ingredients.

woman eating bar

Healthy Snacks That Satisfy

With healthy snacking becoming increasingly important to consumers, careful attention to nutrition and ingredients, along with the convenience and indulgence consumers expect in a snack will be essential to creating snacks that meet today's trends.

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. 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. Contact us to learn more about our solutions for healthy snacks. 

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

Healthy snacks for toddlers are foods that are convenient, easy to eat, often mild in taste, and meet the nutritional needs of toddlers. According to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a toddler’s diet should be rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy or fortified soy alternatives, and protein foods—and that includes snacks.

Since iron and zinc are especially important at this stage of life, healthy snacks for toddlers, as well as toddler meals, might be fortified with these and other essential nutrients. Today’s most popular healthy snacks for toddlers include fruit and vegetable purees, yogurts, cereals, cereal bars, and snack crackers.

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.

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.


1. Innova Market Insights, Snacking: The Definitive Occasion, June 2019.
2. Mintel, Better for You Snacking, December 2019.
3. FMCG Gurus, Survey of 1000 consumers in the USA conducted in Q1 2019, US healthy snacking, September 2019.
4. FMCG Gurus, Top Trends for 2020, January 2020.
5. Mintel, April 2020.
6. Mintel, December 2020.

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