Trend Watch: Three Ways Snacking Has Changed

December 2021

People don’t snack the way they used to. Even a decade ago, most looked at a snack as something you’d indulge in without worrying about the nutritional value. 

Today, people are less likely to sit down to a family breakfast or dinner while an increasing number of diets recommend multiple smaller meals throughout the day. Also, views on health and wellness have changed and factors like sustainability, food waste and environmental stewardship are considered more often when people shop. 

All this means that a snack product is no longer sellable simply as sweet or savory indulgence. It has to deliver more. Snacks are often expected to be rich in nutrients, deliver an energy boost and carry a “better for you” appeal.

Here are three trends you’ll be seeing in 2022 that will continue to redefine what a snack should be:


Plant-Based Everything

From a greater desire for healthy fruits and vegetables to whole lifestyles — vegan, vegetarian, “reducetarianism” — more people are dedicating themselves to healthy living and that means giving up food they believe doesn’t fit that profile.

The numbers tell the story:

  • – 7.5% of Millennials and Gen Z have given up meat
  • – 39% of households purchase plant-based milk
  • – 33% of plant-based protein eaters are eating them more than a year ago, and meat alternatives specifically saw exponential sales growth1


Being “Clean Label”

The “clean label” trend has been growing for years, with no signs of slowing down. Market Data Forecast indicates that global sales of clean label ingredients like natural colors and flavors, starch and sweeteners, fruit and vegetable ingredients, flours, and others are estimated to jump from $38.8 billion in 2021 to $64.1 billion in 2026 at a compound annual growth rate of 6.8%. That’s why it’s no surprise that ATLAS Clean Label Research shows that more than 50% of global consumers are actively looking for products with natural claims.

Successful food producers over the next decade will deliver sustainably sourced ingredients and meet accepted definitions for what clean eating is, such as “free of additives and preservatives,” “only natural ingredients,” “organic,” “unprocessed,” and “ethically responsible.”


The Premium Snack Option

Consumers who venture out as the coronavirus pandemic begins to wane will want higher quality experiences, including what they eat and, specifically, what they snack on. According to one Mintel study, “the COVID-19-driven downturn will accelerate the shift away from excessive consumerism towards a simpler, slower, more minimalist existence…premiumization will remain an important strategy as consumers focus on quality over quantity.”

Manufacturers who move toward these higher quality, more flavorful, and functional offerings are more likely to gain an audience than lose current customers. According to one Marketwired study, over two-thirds of Millennials (68%) will pay extra for organic options and will seek out the premium product options at grocery stores. This trend is happening across all income households as low-income households report purchasing the “small indulgences” at a rate similar to other homes.

By delivering a premium look, feel and taste to snacks, you can meet the growing trend of shoppers wanting a little bit more out of every little bite.

1 Mintel, “Plant-based Proteins – US – May 2021” & “Are plant-based claims the next ‘all-natural’?”

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