In 2019, 34% of consumers admitted to seeking out an indulgent treat, and this blossomed to more than half the population (54%) in 2021.
However, although consumers were more likely to admit to caving into a moment of indulgence in 2019, within three years, 10% of them were actually seeking out snacks as a means to support their health.
This again demonstrates how consumers are prioritising health, said Emily Ann Smith, content and editorial executive for FMCG Gurus – meaning that any bakery or snack product maker still not ready to jump onto that bandwagon is bound to miss a trick.
“This presents the influences of the pandemic on snacking and how people perceive products, with an increase in the number of consumers looking toward better-for-you products that contribute to their health in the long-term,” said Smith.
The pandemic was pivotal in bringing personal health sharply back into play, with 60% of consumers stating COVID-19 made them more conscious of leading a proactive lifestyle.
Even now, with the major panic of the pandemic giving way, 48% still claim to seek out functional foods that include health-enhancing ingredients – probiotics, vitamins, fibre, protein – and claims such as ‘immunity boosting’ or ‘good for digestion’.
“This highlights consumer’s emphasis to adopt a proactive approach to snacking, health and wellness, which has been strongly influenced by the pandemic,” said Smith.
“Consumers are changing their lifestyles for the betterment of their health, mainly through the means of exercise and snacking.”
Asked to definite a snack, 69% of respondents said it was a moment of indulgence, while 67% viewed it as a nutritional boost.
“Snacking tends to be implemented throughout the everyday for consumer and when asked what time of day they snack, the most popular response given was mid-afternoon; between the times of after lunch and before dinner to subside feelings or hunger or for an energy boost.
“Consumers are more health-conscious at different points of the day, which is important to note when tailoring products to consumers.”
The biggest functional demand is for protein, years back initially requested by the athletic fraternity to maintain energy and help with post-sports recovery, but nowadays accepted as an overall key to holistic health.
“A notable increase in snacking habits was the number of consumers who sought out snacks to receive a protein boost,” said Smith, noting that in 2019, only 14% of consumers snacked for a protein boost: more than doubling (to 33%) by 2021.
“This exhibits how snacking is being redefined, with consumers becoming more attentive to functional ingredients and aiming to obtain health benefits.”
A word of caution, though, to new product developers.
“It’s important when mentioning health boosting ingredients that they do not overwhelm the taste of the product, as this will reduce sensory appeal; 28% of consumers said the reason they wouldn’t buy high-protein snacks is the standpoint that they’re less tasty,” added Smith.
According to FMCG Gurus, there has been an increase in all snacking categories – the most popular being fruit, closely followed by yogurt and chocolate – categories inherently associated with indulgence.
Smith noted that although the majority of consumers purportedly ‘snacked’ on better-for-you products, potato chips saw a 32% increase from 2019 to 2021, highlighting how snacking is sometimes governed purely by the desire to indulge.
Consumers were seen to want high levels of protein in snacks that are inherently associated with indulgence, especially chocolate, with 72% claiming they want even more protein content in their snacks.
What consumers want
Summarised Smith, “Consumers are seeking out snacks that will support their lifestyle and goals to preserve their health and engage in aspects such as aiding recovery, providing an energy boost and hunger satiating.
“Knowing consumers want to improve their health, there is opportunity for brands and manufacturers to use functional ingredients that outline claims supporting good health and overall wellbeing to align with consumers needs whilst providing healthy, nutritious and tasty snacks.
“Promoting healthy functional ingredients should clearly display valid claims, nutritional values and ingredients.
“It is important to clearly communicate with consumers while providing them with snacks that align with their needs and desires.