man and woman on couch

New Normal for Snacking in Europe

Consumer snacking drivers and priorities underscore a desire for better-for-you options as balance becomes the new normal for snacking in Europe.


  • The popularity of savory snacks in Europe is driven by taste and emotional satisfaction.
  • Some consumers are cutting back on savory snacks because they seem unhealthy.
  • Research shows snacks with protein are perceived as healthier.
  • Better-for-you snacks should not compromise on taste—the priority attribute.

What Europeans Are Snacking On and Why

The top snack subcategory in Europe right now is savory snacks, with 57% of consumers having purchased them in the past twelve months.1 The main drivers for consuming this type of snack are taste (43%) and emotional reasons, including to indulge/treat/reward oneself (28%), to make oneself happy (23%), and to relax/wind down (20%).2 Convenience is another key driver (21%).3

Top Consumption Drivers for Savory Snacks

Reason for consumption% consumers (avg. 11 European countries)
To indulge/treat/reward self28%
To make self happy23%
To relax and wind down20%
To fill up17%
To cover the time before a regular meal16%
For something new/different14%
For something special/luxury12%
For energy/to keep going11%
To be social11%
Source: Innova Market Insights, Taste of Europe: Exploring Salty Snack Trends, December 2023 

Savory Snacks Suffer from Unhealthy Image

While some consumers have increased their savory snack consumption for reasons like lifestyle change and a greater availability of variety/novelty, 4 others have been cutting back. The leading reason for this: the perception that they’re unhealthy, with 43% of Europeans who have reduced their savory snack consumption citing this as their motivation. 5

Opportunity in Better-for-You Snacks: Just Add Protein

One strategy to improve the image of savory snacks is by adding nutritional or functional benefits that provide real value. Results from our consumer Usage & Attitude Study show that snacks with protein are perceived as healthier by European consumers.6 This implies protein fortification would be an effective way to upgrade a savory snack and increase acceptance among those who have been cutting back on savory snacks.

The perception that protein equals healthy doesn’t only apply to savory snacks. While consumers rated “salty protein snack” much healthier than “crisps/chips,” they also perceived “sweet protein snack” as healthier than “cookies/brownies/muffins” and other baked goods.7 Innova reports that 9% of consumers are influenced by a high/source of protein claim when buying a sweet snack or a savory snack.8

Taste is #1 for Snacks

When purchasing any type of snack, taste/flavor is the single most influential attribute (57%),9 indicating brands cannot compromise on taste when developing better-for-you snacks. Even for protein snacks (sweet, salty, and bars), great tasting is the most important attribute (45%).10 Consumers also say low/no sugar (30%), low in calories (26%), and great texture (25%) are important in a protein snack.11


Balanced Snacking Is the New Normal

Overall, the shift underway signals a new normal in snacking that centers on finding the right balance of pleasure and wellness. Both savory and sweet snacks formulated with health in mind—such as adding protein, as well as reducing sugar and calories—can meet this need. These snacks could even include functional ingredients for stress relief or mood support to address the emotional drivers of snacking.

Protein Snacks: Expanding Needs and Usage Occasions

A growing number of European consumers have found this balance through protein snacks. While protein snacks are often associated with working out—and indeed 52% of consumers use them before or after exercise—they are also consumed during work and study breaks (41%) and while watching TV or playing video games (33%).12

For these consumers, protein snacks address a variety of needs, ranging from energy to a healthy between-meal snack to an indulgent treat.13 The leading driver for consumption of salty protein snacks is to have something really tasty, while for sweet protein snacks, it’s energy to refocus and refuel.14

The top reason consumers use protein bars is as a holdover between meals to avoid bad choices, 15 highlighting the strong health association consumers have with protein bars. For protein bars, taste is the biggest barrier, with a high proportion of nonusers saying they’ve tried protein bars and found “they are not very tasty.”16 Another issue is texture. Those who don’t like the texture say it’s grainy (47%), chewy (35%), hard (34%), chalky (22%), or brittle (21%).17

woman eating nuts

Ingredient Solutions for Today’s Needs

While consumers in Europe will continue snacking to address a wide variety of needs and occasions, expect that the new awareness of the importance of healthy eating will affect consumers’ snacking choices going forward. Brands that ensure even their most indulgent snacks offer some health benefits are likely to appeal to a large number of consumers and meet the emerging need for more balanced snacking. 

Glanbia Nutritionals’ snack solutions  offer an array of options for boosting the health profile of any snack, from bioactive ingredients to essential nutrients like protein. Delivering nutrition and function, our innovative protein solutions include BarFlex® Whey Proteins for long-lasting, soft and chewy textures and CrunchieTM Extruded Crisps for use as an inclusion in a snack, bites, or cereal — providing an exceptional crunch.

To learn more about what today’s consumers are looking for in snacks, contact us.


1-4. Innova Market Insights, Taste of Europe: Exploring Salty Snack Trends, December 2023.
5-6. Glanbia Nutritionals, Healthy Snacking U&A Study - Europe, 2022.
7. Innova Market Insights, Next-Generation Snacking: Exploring the Global Landscape of Better-For-You Sweet vs Savory, July 2023.
8. Innova Market Insights, Taste of Europe: Exploring Salty Snack Trends, December 2023.
9-16. Glanbia Nutritionals, Healthy Snacking U&A Study - Europe, 2022.

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