protein balls

The Rise of Protein Snacking

Consumers’ increased focus on health and wellness is driving growth in protein snacking. See the trending protein snack formats and why protein snacks are so appealing right now.


  • Consumers choose protein snacks due to their health benefits, such as appetite control and exercise support. 
  • Consumers are interested in new snack formats like jerky, bites, balls, and more.

Health and Wellness Driving Protein Snacking

Snacking is a part of daily life for most Americans, with 70% of consumers having a snack on a typical day.1 At the same time, the culture of snacking continues to evolve, especially in response to COVID. 61% of US consumers now use different types of foods and beverages as snacks (such as homemade snacks) than before COVID began, and 47% have leftovers for a snack at least once a week.2

The COVID pandemic has also encouraged more consumers to consider how important their diet is to their overall health and wellness, with 93% of US adults making some effort to eat healthfully.3 To address these changing needs, snack food brands are innovating with ingredients and formats. Protein snacks are at the forefront of this effort.

Benefits of Protein Snacks

Protein snacks stand out to consumers due to protein’s unique role in supporting health, weight management, and workouts. High protein is very important when choosing which snacks to eat or drink for one in four US consumers.4  Read more about the importance of protein to consumers in 2022.


Satiety is a key reason consumers are considering protein when they buy a snack. Protein snacks help consumers feel fuller for longer, which not only makes for a satisfying snack, but also helps curb hunger to support a healthy weight. 42% of global consumers have become extremely concerned about their health and physical fitness because of COVID,5 making consuming healthy nutrients and maintaining a healthy weight especially important.

women doing yoga

Exercise Recovery

Protein also supports the building and strengthening of muscles after exercise. Exercising at home has become an essential strategy for staying fit and healthy for many consumers, with 43% of global consumers starting to exercise at home or else exercising at home more frequently since the start of COVID.6 Protein snacks are a quick and easy way to support exercise recovery after regular home workouts.

Trending Protein Snack Formats

Convenient protein snacks can take many forms—from bars and beverages to chips and cookies. Some trending protein snack formats to watch closely right now include savory meat and meat alternative snacks, as well as mini forms like balls and bites.

Meat and Meat Alternative Snacks

Meat snacks, such as jerky and meat bars, and their meat alternative counterparts are protein-focused snacks that hit the spot for consumers seeking a savory, filling snack. These hearty protein snacks also work well as meal replacements. While current meat alternative snacks are mostly plant- or fungi-based, cell-based meat snacks are on the way, with Ants Innovate (Singapore) having developed a cell-based Chinese meat snack prototype with the same mouthfeel as animal-based meat.


Bites, Balls, and Minis

Miniature versions of protein snacks are catching consumers’ attention by offering fun and novelty, as well as portion control. Protein bites and balls are the most popular and often use ingredients such as nuts, seeds, pea protein, and whey protein to meet protein targets. While 35% of US consumers say they’re interested in mini versions of snacks, this number is significantly higher when looking at younger generations: 49% for Millennials, 43% for Gen Z, and 40% for Gen X.7

Boosting Snack Appeal with Protein

The shift toward protein snacking is a positive trend that indicates consumers’ desires to adopt healthier lifestyles based on better nutrition. Brands that boost the protein of their snacks can stand out to consumers as partners in their journey toward health. Our functional proteins, make it easy to get started. From our BarPro® 120 milk protein concentrate, providing a more desirable result during extrusion, to our semi-finished extruded Crunchie™ Milk Protein Bites, ideal for use as a snack, we have the solutions and experience to help you capture the protein snackers of today. 

Download our Protein Supplier Guide to learn more.


1-2. The Hartman Group, Snacking 2020, January 2021.
3. Mintel, A Year in Innovation in Bars, May 2021. 
4. The Hartman Group, Snacking 2020, January 2021.
5-6. Global Data, The Changing Snacking Landscape, April 2021.
7. Datassential, Snacking, November 2019.

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