woman snacking

New Normal for Snacking in Europe

The pandemic is causing a shift in how and why European consumers are snacking. Here’s a look at consumer research on new snacking motivations and needs influencing the European market and what the new normal will look like.


  • The pandemic has created a new snacking need: distraction.
  • European consumers are looking for nutritious foods to satisfy their snacking needs.
  • Consumers are looking for a balance between wellness and enjoyment. 

COVID-19 Is Changing the Way Consumers Snack

While snacking is an integral part of most consumers’ diets, the pandemic and its associated stressors have influenced what’s driving consumers to snack. According to The Hartman Group, besides the core snacking drivers of nourishment (for sustenance and health), optimization (for physical and mental performance), and pleasure (for indulgence and discovery), COVID-19 has given rise to a new snacking driver: distraction.1

This expansion of snacking need states to include distraction comes at a time when consumers’ lives have been turned upside down. Anxieties about catching the coronavirus, potential or actual job loss, and the state of the economy, combined with the challenges of lockdown such as social isolation and boredom have led to a strong desire for distraction. Key attributes of snacking for distraction include a lack of attention while eating, stress eating, and a preference for highly processed, low- or no-prep snacks.


Current Snacking Drivers in Europe

To understand how this desire for distraction might be influencing European consumers, Glanbia Nutritionals surveyed consumers in the UK, France, and Germany about their snacking habits. The results reveal 38% of consumers in Europe often snack while they’re bored, while 50% snack to cope with stress or frustration.2 These results confirm that distraction is indeed a major snacking driver in Europe.

At the same time, optimization and nourishment remain important reasons for snacking for many European consumers. For example, 42% of consumers indicate snacking is a way for them to refuel after strenuous activity (physical optimization), and 26% snack throughout the day to manage their alertness or focus (mental optimization).3 Snacks to support this need state often include important nutrients like protein, vitamins, minerals, and/or functional ingredients like caffeine or botanicals.

couple cooking

Snacking for nourishment also plays a key role in many consumers’ daily diets, with 33% of Europeans using snacking to control calories as part of weight management and 22% snacking for sustained energy to get through the day.4 Consumers snacking for nourishment may choose to snack on foods and beverages with whole grains, fiber, protein, and healthy fats—particularly those with minimal sugar. 

Balanced Snacking Is the New Normal

Despite the high levels of snacking for distraction that have emerged in Europe, there are signs that the COVID pandemic has also made consumers more aware of the importance of healthy eating and choosing healthier snacks. The research shows 32% of European consumers became more conscious of the snacks they were eating to stay healthy during the pandemic.5 Looking ahead, almost the same number (33%) say they will be more conscious of what they eat to stay healthy as they enter a new hybrid of working from home and the office.6

This indicates a new normal in snacking among European consumers that centers on finding the right balance of enjoyment and wellness in a snack. Highly processed, low- and no-prep snacks preferred for distracted snacking that are also formulated with health in mind can address this need. This might include added protein or vitamins and reduced calories, as well as less sugar. These snacks could even include functional ingredients associated with stress relief and mood support.

Ingredient Solutions for Today’s Needs

While consumers in Europe will continue snacking for a variety of reasons, expect that the new awareness of the importance of healthy eating will affect consumers’ snacking choices going forward. Brands that make sure 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. 

From essential nutrients to healthy bioactive ingredients, Glanbia Nutritionals’ snack solutions and functional beverage solutions offer an array of options for boosting the health profile of any snack. To learn more about what today’s consumers are looking for in snacks, download our snacking trends guide for Europe


1. The Hartman Group, Snacking 2020: Emerging, Evolving and Disrupted, 2021.
2-6. Glanbia Nutritionals Proprietary Research, Snacking in Europe, June 2021.

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