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Consumers demand health snacks, reject empty calories

Many of today’s consumers crave tasty but healthy snacks that help them meet their wellness goals.

Consumer demand for healthy snacks is strong and shows no signs of slowing down in the near future. In fact, an August 2022 report from Newark, Del.-based Future Market Insights (“Better for You Snacks Market by Type, Sales Channel & Region — Forecast 2022 – 2032”) indicates that the global better-for-you snacks market will expand at a compound annual growth rate of 6.5% between 2022 and 2032 to reach $70 billion.

Many of today’s consumers are saying goodbye to “empty calories” when it comes to snacking. The COVID-19 pandemic shifted consumer behavior toward nostalgia and healthier alternatives, said Nikki Azzara, founder and CEO of Denver-based P.S. Snacks Co. “Now in this post-COVID era, people have set higher expectations for health, taste [and] snacking in general.” Brand innovation and discoverability tied to TikTok, Instagram and other marketing channels, too, are driving healthy snacking trends, Azzara added.

[ Read More: Planet Based Foods broadens retail distribution ]

Cut the Carbs

Consumers differ, of course, as to how they define a healthy snack. But most healthy snack-seekers are looking for products that mesh with one or more of today’s significant market trends. Carb-cutting is one such trend. 

Many consumers are opting for snacks with fewer carbs/less sugar, Azzara said. To meet this trend, her company recently launched low-sugar, low-carb cookie dough bites with no artificial flavors or “junky” fillers or preservatives. The plant-based, gluten-free bites are made from chickpeas and covered in chocolate. They represent a modern take on nostalgic movie theater bites and do not compromise on taste, she said.

Hitesh Hajarnavis, managing partner of Free2b Foods, a New York-based creator of allergy-friendly snacks, agreed that the trend is moving toward less sugar. He noted that Free2b Dark Chocolate Sunflower Butter Mini Sun Cups align particularly well with this trend. They contain 44% less sugar than the leading mini peanut butter cup.

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Mind the Keto and Protein Pushes

Going hand in hand with the low-carb/low-sugar trend is the move toward keto diet-friendly offerings, said Janet Levi, PR manager for Hauppauge, N.Y.-based Shrewd Food. Such offerings tend to be low in carbs and high in protein and/or fat and appeal to consumers who want to lose weight — often, a lot of weight.

“It has been proven that keto works for those who are very overweight,” Levi said. “Shrewd Food jumped on the keto train almost three years ago, and we have seen a significant growth in that area of sales.”

The company offers two keto-friendly products: Keto Dippers (in Milk Chocolate and Dark Chocolate varieties) and Keto Krac Bars (in a Milk Chocolate variety). In addition, it will be adding a new “game-changing” Peanut Butter flavor to that lineup soon, Levi added.

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Originally of interest mainly to bodybuilders and other athletes, protein-packed snacks also have gained traction among other consumers in recent years, Levi said. To help meet demand here, Shrewd Foods recently added three new flavors to its Protein Puffs lineup: Sweet Thai Chili, Caramel Apple Pie and Totally Taco. The snacks boast 14 grams of protein but only 2 grams of carbs, per serving.

For many Americans, snacks are replacing meals more often, Hajarnavis added. Protein certainly comes into play here. He said his company’s Crunchsters sprouted mung beans provide the protein and nutrition these consumers are seeking. 

“Consumers of the younger generations— millennials, Gen Z, etc. — are demanding products with ingredients they recognize, that are plant-based and sustainable.”  

— Carla King, director of marketing, Mary’s Gone Crackers

“Consumers of the younger generations— millennials, Gen Z, etc. — are demanding products with ingredients they recognize, that are plant-based and sustainable.”   — Carla King, director of marketing, Mary’s Gone Crackers

Hippeas Veggie Straws

Hippeas says it launched Hippeas Veggie Straws in three flavors: Straight Up Sea Salt, Rockin’ Ranch and Sour Cream and Onion. Made from a blend of veggies that includes yellow peas (first ingredient), tomatoes, beets, spinach and kale, the salty snacks feature 3 g of protein and only 140 calories per 1-oz. serving. The yellow peas are farmed using practices such as conservation tillage to improve soil erosion and crop rotations for soil health. The company noted that peas naturally use less fertilizer by pulling nitrogen from the air, helping to lower the brand’s carbon footprint. The gluten-free offerings, which comes in a 3.75-oz. bag, are vegan and Non-GMO Project Verified.


GOOD PLANeT Snack Packs

SRP: $1.99
New from Bellevue, Wash.-based GOOD PLANeT Foods are GOOD PLANeT Snack Packs featuring plant-based cheese, nuts and dried fruit. Designed for on-the-go convenience, the individually packaged snacks come in two flavors: Smoked Gouda with Dried Cranberries and Almonds, and Cheddar with Dried Cranberries and Cashews. The products feature simple, clean ingredients and are vegan, dairy free, gluten free, soy free, lactose free, allergen free, Non-GMO Project Verified and keto-certified. They come in a 1.5-oz. package.

Think Functional — and Beyond

Functional ingredients such as vegetables, mushrooms and superfoods also boast appeal, Azzara said. Carla King, director of marketing for Mary’s Gone Crackers in Reno, Nev., agreed that there is rising interest in functional ingredients, but added other attributes to the on-trend list.

“The pandemic raised awareness of the value of healthy eating,” King said. “Consumers of the younger generations — millennials, Gen Z, etc. — are demanding products with ingredients they recognize, that are plant-based and sustainable.”

King noted that Mary’s Gone Crackers recently introduced Mary’s Gone Kookies Graham-style Snacks and Mary’s Gone Cheezee Crackers with plant-based cheese. Like the company’s other products, they are organic, non-GMO and gluten free.

Snack offerings designed for consumers with food allergies or sensitivities also are gaining in appeal, Hajarnavis said.

“Half of all U.S. consumers avoid one of the top common food allergens either because of a serious allergy, a family member with an allergy or multiple other reasons,” he said. “Increasing your allergy-friendly offerings, particularly in the snack aisle, creates a more inclusive shelf set, bringing new shoppers and incremental sales.”

[ Read More: Pure Protein expands portfolio with new product lines ]

Show Them Off

It is important for drug stores to offer the on-trend healthy snacks consumers crave. It is also crucial, however, that consumers are able to locate such products, so placement within the store counts.

“We believe that healthy snacks should be placed in a high-traffic area of the store that sits right there with the protein bars and protein shakes,” Levi said. “Shrewd Food isn’t expecting to gain a customer who was originally going to buy Doritos.”

King agreed that placement matters. “It’s important to offer healthy alternatives to traditional snacks in places where [consumers] are already seeking health remedies.”


Top Performers: Healthy Snacks


Better Than Good Foods

Variety Pack Keto Protein Puffs (9-pack)
SRP: $2.99 to $3.50
The idea behind Better Than Good Foods started when the founders’ four-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer and his chemotherapy treatments made him crave chips and junk food. They searched for a healthier snack high in protein, low in carbs and sugar, with fruits and veggies that still tasted like the junk food their son loved. When they couldn’t find one, they decided to create their own! Keto Protein Puffs have just three to four ingredients that are all-natural and free of gluten, nuts, soy and GMOs, with 25% of recommended daily vitamins. A portion of net proceeds is donated to help families going through childhood cancer.


Plant Snacks

Plant Thins 5 oz.
SRP: $4.49
Plant Snacks is on a mission to bridge the gap between plant-based snacks and conventional taste. Its Plant Thins 5-oz. snack line is crafted with a special plant-based flour blend of whole grain corn, cassava root, psyllium husk, pea protein and mushroom powder. Plant Thins are vegan, plant-based, certified gluten free, Non-GMO Project Verified and free of allergens and added sugars. Additionally, they are a good source of fiber and vitamin D, and have 50% more protein (3 g) than most chips. Most importantly, they have a craveable crunch and come in four flavors. 


Pop Art Snacks

Rosemary Truffle with Olive Oil
SRP: $4.49
Pop Art Snacks knows how beautifully unique consumers are, and their courage to stand out inspired the brand to create delicious salty snacks with bold and innovative flavors. They strive to remind us all that when you inspire greatness in yourself, you inspire greatness in others! Plain popcorn is boring. Rosemary and Truffle Popcorn is not. This vegan snack is flavored with olive oil, sea salt, rosemary and black summer truffle, and is certified non-GMO, gluten free, kosher and whole grain. 

Methodology: The products selected are RangeMe Verified™ brands that received the highest positive buyer interaction scores within the Snacks category — a score that represents a combination of buyer views, messages, saves, sample requests and purchases of the product. The RangeMe verification process confirms that brands and products meet certain standards and requirements that RangeMe’s retail partners look for before doing business with a brand. For the Healthy Snacks category, selected brands must have had one or more of the following keywords in their RangeMe profile: non-GMO, organic, keto, paleo, gluten free, vegan or sugar free.