healthy snack foods

What's New in the Snack Aisle for 2020?

Last year, Americans consumed an estimated 386 billion ready-to-eat snack foods!The NPD Group, market research firm and author of the Future of Snacking report, also found that consumers are increasingly seeking balance when it comes to snacks—with both nutritional benefits and exciting flavors top of mind. Learn what’s new in snacks, what’s driving these trends, and how manufacturers can use these insights to deliver the type of snacks that will attract today’s consumers.

Top Nutrients in Snack Foods

As consumers have embraced daily snacking, better-for-you versions of favorite snacks have become an expectation for many consumers. Better-for-you does not necessarily mean healthy, but it does mean less of the bad and more of the good. 

Many manufacturers are achieving this by reducing added sugars and calories via formulation or portion size control (e.g., with thins, minis, and portion packs). They are also making sure their products contain a healthy dose of the most in-demand nutrients.


Protein foods, both plant- and animal-based, continue to dominate new product launches. According to Mintel, 39 percent of consumers who try to eat healthy at least some of the time look at protein content when choosing healthy foods and beverages.2 In addition, 52 perccent of consumers are reading the nutrition label when they buy a new food.

Popular protein snacks include yogurt, jerky, bean snacks, and protein bars. Nutritional fortification with protein is not just for bars, though. High protein cookies, snack cakes, and snackable breakfast cereals represent the evolution of the protein snack category. A custom nutrient premix can be added to any food to boost its protein, as well as its fiber, vitamin, and mineral content.


Fiber is the top nutrient consumers are trying to consume, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation.3 Grain-based snacks, such as cereal bars, granola bars, and snackable cereals, have a particular advantage in delivering fiber. 

In addition, crackers and chips formulated with whole grains can be important sources of fiber in the diet. Fiber bars, nut and seed snacks, and fruit snacks are also options for consumers who are seeking more fiber.

Vitamins and Minerals

Snacks naturally rich in vitamins and minerals include fruit snacks, nut and seed snacks, and combination products like trail mixes. Nutritional fortification allows for higher levels of vitamins and minerals, however, and is especially important for certain population segments, such as children, seniors, and athletes. Fortified nutrition bars are popular snacks that can easily provide vitamins and minerals at 20 percent DV or higher to make a “high” or “excellent source” claim. 

Meticulous Research reports high growth underway in food premixes globally, with vitamins dominating the category.4 Adding a vitamin premix to foods is a key strategy for reducing vitamin deficiencies, which are unfortunately still common, even in the U.S. Nutritional fortification of snack foods with a vitamin premix can have far-reaching effects on public health.

Snack Foods to Watch in 2020

While the snack food category as a whole continues to experience rapid growth due to the rise in busy, on-the-go lifestyles and the associated changes in eating habits, certain snack segments are worth watching closely. These are segments that have embraced innovative ingredients, flavors, and formats while keeping nutrition in the forefront.


Brands like Epic helped take jerky to new heights through a focus on bold flavor combinations and alternative meat sources, such as bison, lamb, wild boar, venison, and salmon. Consumers’ demand for high protein, low/no sugar snacks continues to support the growth of the jerky segment. This includes new formats (like Epic’s bites and bars), global varieties, and plant-based options.

Biltong may be the next big thing in jerky. This South African-style beef jerky is known for its tender texture and pronounced beef flavor as a result of a traditional air drying process. Kalahari Biltong offers biltong slices in flavors such as Lime Chili and Spicy Peri Peri. Stryve Biltong Snacks offers biltong in traditional slices, as well as sticks and stick minis. 

beef jerkey

Plant-based jerky is also on the rise. Since jerky can be made from a variety of plant proteins, innovation has been the norm in this area. Popular bases include wheat (Upton’s Naturals’ Jerky Bites), jackfruit (Snack Jack Plant-Based Jerky) and mushrooms (Savory Wild Portabella Jerky). A custom nutrient premix can be added to plant-based jerky to provide nutrients commonly found in meat, such as iron and B vitamins.

100% Cheese Snacks

Another zero sugar protein snack poised for growth is the 100% cheese snack. Just the Cheese sells Baked Cheese Bars and Mini Crisps in Mild Cheddar, Aged Cheddar, and Grilled Cheese. Just the Cheese products are keto and paleo friendly, gluten free, and high in calcium—a nutrient of concern for Americans.

Air Cheese Crunchy Cheese Bites by Elma Farms are available in Cheddar and Gouda, as well as Chili Gouda and Basil Gouda flavors. The company website provides a recipe section with additional ways to use the product, such as a topper for salads, soups, and pastas.

Popcorn and Popcorn Cakes

Ready-to-eat popcorn is undergoing rapid expansion in flavor and format options. Sweet, decadent flavors are doing especially well and have moved far beyond traditional caramel, cinnamon sugar, and maple flavors. Examples include Angie’s Boomchickapop in Cinnamon Roll Drizzled and Milk Chocolatey Peanut Butter and Farmer Jon’s Popcorn in Cookies ‘N Cream Caramel and Chocolate Hazelnut Caramel. While a decadent popcorn has more calories than traditional popcorn, it’s nonetheless a lower calorie alternative to common decadent treats like sweet baked goods and chocolate. 

Popcorn is also making strides in visual appeal with colorful kernels (Farmer Jon’s Popcorn in Colorful Caramel) and sprinkles (The Popcorn Factory’s Holiday Cookie Dough popcorn). Edible glitter is another way to add color, as well as sparkle, to popcorn. Edible glitter is particularly suited to birthday cake flavored popcorn and holiday offerings.

snack foods popcorn cakes

Popcorn Puffs, available from both Boomchickapop and SkinnyPop, are another way consumers can eat their popcorn. Additional popcorn formats include SkinnyPop Popcorn Cakes and Popcorn Mini Cakes, in flavors such as Everything Bagel and Sharp Cheddar. Corn has even moved into rice cakes and is a prominent ingredient in many varieties of Quaker Rice Cakes and Rice Crisps, imparting a distinct popcorn taste to the products.

Bean Snacks

Consumers’ desire for low calorie protein and fiber snacks, along with their perpetual interest in new ingredients, is pushing innovation in bean snacks. With black bean and chickpea snacks well-established, snack food manufacturers are now reaching for new beans (as well as new formats and flavors). Examples include Beanitos Pinto Bean Chips and White Bean Chips, which use great northern beans. Beanitos also sells Baked Bean Crunch—extruded bean puffs in flavors such as Fuego N’ Lime and Mac N’ Cheese.

Snack Foods beans

Penne Straws by Pasta Snacks are penne-shaped bean snacks made from lentils and white beans and offered in Italian flavors such as Marinara, Lemon Garlic, and Sweet Pepper. Peatos Crunchy Curls contain a blend of peas, lentils, and protein from fava beans and feature flavors like Chili Cheese, Masala, and Ranch. 

New roasted bean snacks include Crunchsters, which are made from sprouted mung beans and sold in Smoky Balsamic, Beyond Bacon, and Barbecue flavors. Crunchy Broad Beans by Enlightened Bada Bean Bada Boom are made from roasted fava beans, also known as broad beans. Sweet Sriracha, Spicy Wasabi, and Cocoa Dusted are some of the flavors offered in Bada Bean Bada Boom’s 100-calorie snack packs.

The Better-for-You Snack

To create the better-for-you snack that today’s consumers expect, it’s important to be mindful of calories and sugars, especially added sugars, and to formulate with nutrient dense ingredients where possible. Nutritional fortification can be used to boost protein or fiber enough to make a claim. Even adding a vitamin premix to a traditional snack food can give that product a competitive edge on the shelf.

And don’t forget the importance of exciting flavors and textures, an appealing appearance, and a variety of formats. Better-for-you snacks, like all snacks, should be delicious, attractive, and fun!

For a custom nutrient premix to fortify your plant-based jerky or an edible glitter to make your popcorn pop, Glanbia’s got you covered! 


NPD. (2019). The Future is Bright for Snack Foods As Permissible, Portable, and Beneficial Eating Solutions. Retrieved from
Mintel. (2019). Americans Prefer to Exercise Over Eating Healthy. Retrieved from
International Food Information Council Foundation. (2019). 2019 Food & Healthy Survey. Retrieved from
Meticulous Research. (2018). Food Premix Market – Global Opportunity Analysis And Industry Forecast (2018-2023). Retrieved from

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