woman holding almonds

The Right Time for Protein Snacks

Protein snacks are one of the top trends in snacking, but when do consumers use them? Here’s a look at the most popular eating occasions for protein snacks and why it’s important for brands to know.

What Are Eating Occasions?

An eating occasion is any instance in which a food or beverage is consumed. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner may be the eating occasions we know best. However, there are many more—from late night snacking to watching TV to celebrating a birthday party.

Each eating occasion carries its own need states. Understanding which types of products address consumers’ need states can help brands develop the right solutions for that eating occasion. Especially valuable for companies is knowing the consumer eating occasions for their own products. This helps them identify the best product positioning, packaging, and placement for success.

Range of Eating Occasions for Protein Snacks

For protein snacks, the eating occasion that often comes to mind is workouts—either before (to fuel the workout) or after (for muscle recovery). Our consumer research shows it is a key eating occasion, but we also found that protein snack users have a wide range of eating occasions. In fact, a typical protein snack user in the US has 5-6 different occasions for eating protein snacks.1

The number one eating occasion for protein snacks is actually while using the computer at home (43%), followed by before or after gym or sports activities (42%).2 39% consume protein snacks during a break at work or school, while 33% are having protein snacks when they spend the day out.3

family walking

The Mainstreaming of Protein Snacks

We see that for today’s consumers, the right time for a protein snack is almost any time. There are a few key reasons for this. One is the growing consumer interest in high protein (for satiety, weight loss, muscle support, and overall health), which also extends to their snacking choices. Parents are even looking for high protein snacks for their kids.

Another reason for the range of protein snack eating occasions is the trend in conscious indulgence. Protein snack options have expanded beyond the protein bar to include a variety of sweet and savory protein snacks—from protein cookies and muffins to protein chips and puffs. Many of today's protein bars, with their decadent flavors and textures, can also satisfy consumers seeking to balance a moment of indulgence with better-for-you nutrition.

Making Protein Snacks That Satisfy

Consumers are reaching for protein snacks while at the computer, on break, and when out and about—not just while working out. This greatly expands the opportunities for protein bar and snack brands. As consumers shift toward healthier snacking choices, brands can encourage the benefits of protein snacks through messaging that targets these common eating occasions. 


Before you get started on your next protein product, check out our bar and snack solutions—from dairy and plant proteins to custom premixes to our unique Crunchie™ Protein Bites and Crisps, which can add protein and crunch to bars, snack mixes, cereals, and confections. Contact us to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

Protein from any source can support weight loss and weight management by providing satiety. This occurs because protein triggers the release of appetite-suppressing hormones in the gut. The best type of protein for weight loss, however, is something researchers continue to investigate. Certain bioactive peptides in milk have shown benefits in increasing fat loss while maintaining lean muscle.

The best protein for muscle gain is a high-quality protein with a Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) of 1.00. This shows it contains all the amino acids the body needs and is in the right proportion to build muscle. Dairy-based proteins have a PDCAAS of 1.00, with whey protein the best choice for right before or after a workout due to its fast absorption and casein, which is useful as an overnight slow-release protein.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for an adult with minimum physical activity is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. This means that someone with a low activity level who weighs 150 lbs. should be sure to consume at least 55 grams of protein each day to prevent a protein deficiency. This can be calculated by dividing your weight in lbs by 2.2 (to convert to kg) and multiplying by 0.8 grams: 150/2.2 x 0.8 = 55 grams).

However, certain groups of people have higher protein needs. For example, starting in their 40s to 50s, people need to increase their protein to 1-1.2 grams per kilogram to prevent age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia). People with very high activity levels (especially those who regularly lift weights or engage in endurance sports) may require 1.1-1.7 grams per kilogram. The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that 10%-35% of our calories should come from protein.


1-3. Glanbia Nutritionals, Healthy Snacking U&A Study, 2022.

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