two kids eating snacks

The State of the Healthy Snack Market in 2021

With the majority of global consumers expecting snacks to offer a nutritional boost,1 healthy snacking is no longer a niche corner of the snacking universe. The types of snacks global consumers are choosing is evolving and disrupting the traditional snack market. From plant-based jerky bars to oat milk yogurt to flavored almond butter squeeze packs, healthy snacks are in high demand. Learn which ingredients, nutrients, and claims are drawing consumers to healthy snacks.

Healthy Snacks Driving Snack Market Growth

The global healthy snacks market is forecast to reach $98 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 5.8% between 2020 and 2025, according to Euromonitor.2 Nuts, seeds and trail mixes continue to lead the market, with a revenue share of 41%, followed by snack bars with 20% share.3 

While North America is currently the largest market for healthy snacks, consumers in emerging economies in Latin America, Asia Pacific and the Middle East & Africa, are experiencing a shift in consumption patterns and increasing disposable incomes that could lead to high future growth in healthy snacks. 

Clean label, sustainability and functional ingredient claims are driving snack food sales. According to Mintel Global Product Launch database, in the previous five years, snacks with a vegan/no animal ingredients claims grew by 11.8% annually, environmentally friendly packaging grew 7% annually, snacks with high or added protein grew 11.5% annually, and those with no or reduced sugar grew by 13.4% annually.4 

So What Makes a Snack Healthy?

As consumers scan the shelves for snacks that they can feel good about, they look for cues such as claims and ingredients to help guide their purchasing decisions.

Top Claims

Popular front-of-package claims on snack foods that consumers associate with better-for-you include:

  • Protein
  • Whole grain
  • Fiber
  • Natural
  • No artificial colors
  • No artificial flavors
  • Non-GMO
  • Organic
  • Gluten-free
  • No added sugar
  • Reduced sugar
  • 100 calories
  • Probiotics
  • Antioxidants
  • Vitamins and minerals

Top Ingredients

Consumers also understand certain ingredients to have inherent health and nutrition benefits, and often expect them in their healthy snacks. Today’s healthy snacks are typically based on or include ingredients such as:

  • Whole grains and ancient grains
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Lean meats
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Low fat and no fat dairy

Functional Food and Beverage Snacks

In addition to formulating snacks with macronutrients in mind—such as keeping protein and fiber high, while ensuring fat and sugar are low—adding functional ingredients is now a popular way for manufacturers to create a healthy snack. For example, bars may contain added vitamins and fiber, plant-based yogurts may be fortified with calcium, and beverages may include botanicals such as turmeric. 

Other functional ingredients that can work well in snacks are amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, and probiotics. Functional ingredients can be easily added to a food or beverage through a custom nutrient premix. Moreover, combining multiple functional ingredients into one custom nutrient premix streamlines several business operations including purchasing, warehousing, quality control, and production. 

A custom nutrient premix can also be developed to meet the health and nutrition needs of specific consumer segments. It could address stage-of-life needs and be customized for growing kids, teens, or seniors. Or it could address health concerns, such as digestion, immunity, cognition, energy, or weight loss. For example, a custom nutrient premix containing calcium, vitamin D, and boron could be used in a product that supports bone health and targets senior women.

snack guide

Trends and Innovations in Healthy Snacks

Consumers’ preferences for snacks that deliver on health, convenience, and taste have sparked recent innovation in several of the healthy snack segments.

Bars

Bars continue to be at the forefront of functional foods. A variety of probiotic, prebiotic, and omega-3 fortified bars are in the market, as well as paleo and keto options formulated to be extremely low in carbohydrates and fortified with medium chain triglycerides. Protein levels are rising in bars, often with traditional whey and soy proteins, but increasingly with pea protein.

Whole grains, ancient grains (especially quinoa), cashew and almond nut butters, and chia seeds have expanded in bars. Bars are available that meet a wide variety of needs, but protein, fiber, and all natural remain common themes. thinkKIDS line of bars with protein, fiber, and kid-friendly flavors is a good example.

healthy bars

Chips

Never before have so many all natural, non-GMO, made with whole grain, baked not fried, and reduced sodium chips been on the market. Chip manufacturers have been extremely responsive to consumers’ needs for healthy snacks. 

Newer developments include chips made from legume flours (such as pea, chickpea, and black bean flours,) and more chips made from vegetables and ancient grains. Functional chips are also available. Vegan Rob’s chips contain ingredients such as turmeric and probiotics.  

Jerky

Krave virtually created the healthy jerky market. With claims that include all natural, gluten free, good source of protein, and low fat, Krave Beef Jerky easily catches the eye of the healthy snack consumer. Krave has set the standard with gourmet flavors such as Chipotle Cherry, Cranberry Thyme, and Mango Jalapeno. Innovations such as Krave Bars, made from beef, turkey, pork, dried fruit, and quinoa, will expand this segment further and inspire competition. Several vegan jerky products have already entered the market.

Nuts and Seeds 

Almonds, cashews, and peanuts continue to be staples of nut snack packs, trail mixes, and nut bars. 

Justin’s Nut Butter have expanded beyond their line of squeeze packs including almond butter, cashew butter, peanut butter, hazelnut butter, and flavored varieties, such as cinnamon almond, maple cashew, and chocolate hazelnut, to nut butter cups and protein bars. Flax, chia, and hemp seeds are popular in nut bars, chips, and snackable granola clusters. Given the success of nut butter squeeze packs, there’s big potential for the expansion of seed butters, such as sunflower seed and pumpkin seed butters, especially as they would be suitable for those with nut allergies.

nuts and seeds in a bowl

Yogurt

The yogurt aisle is not finished growing yet. Thanks to its health benefits from probiotics, calcium, and protein, along with its variety of delicious flavors, yogurt remains one of consumers’ favorite healthy snacks. Higher protein and lower sugar have become increasingly important in the yogurt segment.

Expansion in yogurt has been driven largely by plant-based yogurts, with newer additions including Chobani Non-Dairy Greek yogurt and Good Karma Flaxmilk drinkable and spoonable yogurts. Packaging expansions include fun, portable formats for kids such as Chobani Gimmies tubes and squeeze packs.

Legume Snacks

Legumes as snacks are taking off. Legume snacks include roasted legumes and legume puffs, but nearly any legume can work as a savory snack. 

Roasted legumes and legume flours are also easy to include in chips, crackers, and bars for a boost in fiber and plant protein. Millenials particularly are interested in legume snacks, compared to other generations. Their interest outpaces Gen Z, Gen X and Baby Boomers in chickpea, black bean, edamame and lentil as snack ingredients.5

Protein Balls and Bites

A fun new alternative to protein bars is protein balls and bites. These mini versions allow for better portion control than bars, and their size makes them even more snackable.

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.

cinnamon sticks in bottles

Ready-to-Drink Beverages

Beverages as snacks are more than just smoothies and shakes. Kombucha, a fermented tea naturally rich in probiotics, continues to expand. Kombucha is becoming more sophisticated with a variety of tropical fruit and herbal flavors available.

Low sugar and no sugar beverages are expanding due to consumer interest. Botanical waters are well-suited to this trend. Coconut water is facing competition from birch water, maple water, and aloe water. The functional ingredients on trend in beverages include turmeric and cannabinoids.

Make It a Healthy Snack

Food and beverage manufacturers have done an amazing job of responding to consumers’ evolving needs in snacks in the past year. After reviewing the state of the healthy snack market, we can confidently conclude that taste, convenience, and healthy nutrition are all the ingredients you need to make a healthy snack!

Let us help make your snack a healthy one with proteins, plant-based solutions, a custom nutrient premix or bioactive ingredients. From cheese to cereals to bars, to beverages and everything in between —we’ve got you covered! Contact us to learn more. 

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References

1. FMCG Gurus, Top Trends for 2020, January 2020. 
2-3. Euromonitor Passport, Health & Wellness Savoury Snacks, Sweet Biscuits, Snack Bars & Fruit Snacks, accessed March 2021. 
4. Mintel, Global New Product Databasee, March 2021. 
5. Mintel. Trending Flavors and Ingredients in Snacks - US, March 2021.

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