Snacking is becoming more ingrained in consumers’ everyday eating behaviors. One reason is because 40% of consumers believe snacks are part of a healthy diet. Snacking healthy snacking can supply energy and nutrition needed to get through the day, which is especially key for consumers’ increasingly on-the-go lifestyles.
Snacking for Nutritional Purposes
Snacking behaviors have changed in the past few years and will continue to evolve going forward, with one of the greatest shifts being a larger focus on nutritional snacks. When asked how their snacking behavior has changed in the last two years, consumers’ top response is that they’re snacking more on healthier foods (40%).
And when consumers predict how their snacking behaviors may change, eating healthier once again tops responses with more than a quarter (28%) believing they will consume healthier snacks in the coming year. Aligning with the demographic skews regarding the notion that between-meal snacking is part of a healthful diet, responses for all three stats sway heaviest toward younger consumers (between the ages of 18 and 34) and women.
While data shows consumers prioritize the flavor and satiety of snacks over health and nutrition, many still highly value these latter attributes. About half of consumers indicate that healthfulness (51%) and nutritious components (49%) are crucial factors when choosing a snack. And more than two-fifths of consumers say that features like unprocessed (42%) and natural/additive-free (41%) are important when selecting a snack.
Better-for-You Snack Preferences
Seven out of 10 consumers find better-for-you snacks appealing (69%). Generationally, this sways most heavily toward millennials (79%), particularly 25–34 year olds (81%). Further, more women (74%) than men (64%) find better-for-you snacks alluring. This is consistent with trends that show more women than men seek healthier options in general at restaurants. And Hispanics (75%) and Southerners (73%) also most find healthful snacks appealing compared to other ethnicities and regions.
More consumers are likely to consider better-for-you snacks in the afternoon (73%) than any other time of day. Slightly fewer consumers also consider mornings (69%) and evenings (66%) proper times of day to consume healthful snacks, while an even smaller proportion will eat a healthy snack as a meal replacement (57%) or during a late-night occasion (54%). It’s important to note that while all of these dayparts sway toward millennials, a more significant proportion of millennials would consider healthful snacks as a meal replacement (73%) compared to the considerably fewer Gen Zers or Gen Xers (both 59%), boomers (48%) and matures (33%). Thus, operators may want to consider marketing these types of snacks as such to this generational set.
Consumers find a wide range of nutritious snacks appealing. Respondents rank fruit and fruit-based snacks as the most enticing, with 63% of consumers saying they purchase these types of snacks at least once every 90 days. Yogurt trails close behind (57%) with plant-based proteins (56%)—such as peanut butter and hummus— rounding out the top three.
There are a number of interesting demographic breakouts when it comes to the most appealing healthful snacks. Here are a few:
Women find all healthful snacks more appealing than men with the exception of juice. Some 56% of men compared to just 50% of women find juice enticing.
While millennials tend to find each of the healthful snacks listed more appealing than other generations, one standout involves Gen X. Those born between 1966 and 1976 find granola/granola bars enticing (60%), more than any other generation.
Regional breakouts prove very enlightening as well. Snacks favored by Southerners more than those in other regions include fruit/fruit-based snacks (66%), eggs/egg-based dishes (53%) and oatmeal (43%). And Westerners— more than other regions—most prefer yogurt (61%), nuts (61%), dark chocolate (47%), smoothies (40%) and veggies/veggie-based snacks (39%).
Consumers with a mixed ethnic background tend to have the strongest opinion one way or another regarding the appeal of various better-for-you snacks. They are the most likely to say they find fruit snacks (82%), plant- based protein snacks (64%), nuts (64%), egg snacks (64%) and veggie snacks (55%) appealing and the least likely to say yogurt (45%), smoothies (18%) and frozen yogurt (18%) are alluring.
TAKEAWAY: Because there are such vast demographic variances when it comes to better-for-you snack preferences, it is essential to know your key consumer set before launching a healthful snack.
TAKEAWAY: Nearly two-thirds of consumers (64%) want to see more better-for-you snacks on restaurant menus. Thus, operators have plenty of room to get more creative with their healthful snack offerings.
Better-for-You Snack Trends
Operators are using fruits, vegetables, functional spices, nonmeat proteins and other nutritious ingredients to create craveable yet health-forward snacks. Here are six trends to consider in the better-for-you snack category.
Plant-Based Protein Snacks
Freshii offers Energii Bites, house-made, no-cook snacks made with peanut butter, oats, honey, coconut and chocolate chips.
Cafe Gratitude sells a functional Turmeric Latte, featuring hemp seeds, medjool dates, turmeric juice and vanilla bean.
Nekter Juice Bar’s add-ons include bee pollen, chia seeds, hemp protein, pea protein and whey protein.
Grabbagreen serves acai cups with combinations like banana, cacao, honey and granola.
Snap Kitchen menus a Provencal Flatbread small bite with a cauliflower crust topped with pesto and tomato compote.
Mix-and-Match Veggie Snacks
Caffe Baci serves snack-sized, daily prepared contorni (sides), including garlic- and citrus-marinated olives, seasonal quinoa and grilled seasonal veggies with balsamic. TAKEAWAY: Next-generation superfood snacks are often high in price and may be cost-prohibitive for several Top 500 chains. Operators can simplify these items with a few key ingredient choices, such as bananas, strawberries and granola for acai bowls.
3 Areas of Opportunity in Better-For-You Snacks
Restaurants vs. Retail
While innovative and nutritious snacks have proliferated in retail, leading restaurant operators could differentiate their snack menus by offering some more interesting and health-oriented snack choices. A third of consumers (33%, up from 23% in 2014) say they’d purchase snacks more often at restaurants if they offered healthier options. Thus, restaurants should take note of some of the innovative grab-and-go snack offerings that retailers have emphasized over the past few years.
Up the Unique Factor
Two-fifths of consumers (42%) say they’d purchase healthful snacks more often if more unique flavorings were available. To differentiate better-for-you snack offerings, operators may want to consider offering a wider variety of unique flavorings, such as chili-lime carrots or jalapeño-honey hummus. The sky’s the limit!
Balance is Key
Even indulgent snacks can highlight better-for-you attributes to make them more attractive to health-minded guests. Calling out sourcing claims, such as the use of organic ingredients, is one way to create a health halo around more decadent snacks. Another way is to emphasize the functional features of a snack, such as protein-rich claims.