What’s the biggest trend in better-for-you snacking?

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

What is THE big trend in better-for-you snacking? Mondelēz, Nestlé, Ferrero, and Mars weigh in. GettyImages/coldsnowstorm
What is THE big trend in better-for-you snacking? Mondelēz, Nestlé, Ferrero, and Mars weigh in. GettyImages/coldsnowstorm

Related tags better-for-you healthy snacking

What’s the one key trend in the better-for-you snacks category? We put the question to Mondelēz, Nestlé, Ferrero, and Mars.

Gone are the days of three-square meals; consumers are embracing snacking in big way. But it’s not all high-sugar confectionery and full-fat crisps, these days shoppers are also seeking out better-for-you alternatives.

According to Innova Market Insights, one-third of consumers globally reported increasing their consumption of healthy snacks over the past year. This is reflected in promising market growth: it’s predicted the global better-for-you snacks market value will rise at a CAGR of 3.3% to reach $53bn by 2033​.

Better-for-you snacks come in many guises, but ultimately the term ‘better for you’ implies a relationship between the food product in question and health​ – which could suggest either a positive health effect or the absence of negative effects.

Trends abound, from reduced sugar to high protein, personalised nutrition or carb-free. But what is the ​biggest trend in better-for-you snacking? We ask those at the heart of the movement: FMCGs producing better-for-you snacks for the masses.

Personalisation in the snacking category

Mondelēz International sees itself as first-and-foremost a snacking company. Although it also innovates in-house, the FMCG major has made some noteworthy acquisitions in the category of late, including baked snacks maker Chipita and snacks bar brand Clif Bar & Company.

The company’s corporate venture capital arm, SnackFutures Ventures, invests in better-for-you snacks in several ways, from sugar and fat reduction technologies to ‘natural’ and clean label snacks, and offerings with reduced environmental footprints.

But it’s personalisation that SnackFutures Ventures perceives to be the one key trend in better-for-you snacking. “We see consumer desire and demand for personalisation being a key driver in better-for-you snacking – from end products to wearable tech,” says Richie Gray, global head of SnackFutures Ventures.

Personalisation is a major trend in better-for-you snacking, according to SnackFutures Ventures. Image credit: Mondelēz International

“We see consumers increasingly looking for snacks that deliver a personal health or nutrition need, technologies that enable monitoring and measurement of how food and snacks impact the body, as well as the lines blurring between food as medicine and medicine as food.”

High protein trend isn’t going anywhere fast

The high protein trend is infiltrating almost every category, from plant-based meat to ice cream, confectionery and yes, you guessed it, snacking.

Sweet-packaged goods company Ferrero Group’s acquisition of Eat Natural in 2021 – which makes fruit and nut bars, and granola – cemented its place in the better-for-you snacks market.

But a more recent acquisition has seen the company align closely with the high protein snacks trend. In 2022, Ferrero acquired Fulfil Nutrition, which makes low-sugar protein bars.

“The positioning of protein bars has changed in recent years, moving from specific products for sport to tasty and practical snacks for a balanced and active lifestyle,” a Ferrero spokesperson told this publication.

cereal bars Mykola Sosiukin
High protein is a trend in the snack bars segment. GettyImages/Mykola Sosiukin

Low sugar and high protein are also trends backed by Swiss food major Nestlé, which owns brands Uncle Toby’s bars in Australia and Nature’s Heart snacks range in Latin America.

Rather than name one key trend in better-for-you snacking, Nestlé sees two: functional snacking (including high protein and fortification) and 'snacking with purpose'. Overall, the company wants to encourage responsible consumption and told us it’s innovating to deliver on additional benefits, including increased wholegrain and fibre content.

The biggest trend in snacking? ‘Choice’

Better-for-you snacking does not always mean innovating from scratch. FMCGs are also working to reduce problem nutrients such as saturated fat, sugar and salt. This is one of the approaches Mars, Inc. is taking.

“Snacking is a global mega-category that’s continuing to grow, and to us better-for-you means that we are mindfully innovating our portfolio to offer shoppers maximum choice and match evolving consumer needs,” says Alize Manderlier, senior director, global category leadership of Mars Snacking.

As part of this, the multinational is reinventing its current lineup. Mars recently launched Starburst Goodies gummies with 90kcal per bag and 8g of added sugar. “It also means driving global growth among our lineup of more permissible snacking brands, including Kind, Nature’s Bakery and Tru Fru.”

snacks kupicoo
Consumers want choice, says Mars Snacking's Alize Manderlier, and that includes healthier alternatives. GettyImages/kupicoo

For Mars, the biggest trend in snacking is therefore choice, with better-for-you snacks making up just one piece of the snacking puzzle. “Snacking needs to fit a range of fluid and dynamic consumption occasions, which is why the category is continuing an upward demand trajectory and consumers are incorporating a range of snacks into their diets,” says Manderlier.

“Shoppers expect to find their snacking favourites in store but at the same time be offered healthier alternatives.”

What up-and-coming snacking trends are on the horizon?

Looking to the future, which better-for-you snacking trends are expected to shape the category?

One pinpointed by Mars is a change in how consumers purchase their better-for-you snacks. The company expects the omnichannel and digital shopping trend to continue to grow, and suggested retailers will need to ‘keep pace’ to provide a ‘seamless’ shopping experience that gives consumers more choices without compromising on taste.

“The goal is for shoppers to be able to procure the snacks that they want, when they want them,” said Mars Snacking’s Manderlier.

Environmental sustainability is also a trend expected to develop further in the coming years. For Nestlé, this trend falls under ‘snacking with purpose’ and incorporates environmental footprint, carbon reduction, recyclability, and plant-based ingredients.

For Mondelēz, too, sustainable and ethical snacking is clearly on consumers’ radars. According to the company’s Trends Radar, which takes a 10-year look at what consumers want from their snacks, ‘sustainable’ is amongst the top trends.

“This will only accelerate with consumers’ ability to become informed and use technology to validate and quantify the impact of their snacking choices on personal and planetary health,” says SnackFutures Ventures’ Gray.

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