Taking a Bite Out of the Healthy Snacking Trend
Reaching for a snack might not be groundbreaking behaviour, but the types of foods people are gravitating towards have changed significantly recently. We look at what this could mean for the future.
Snacking has undergone something of a makeover in the past few years. While snacks used to be relegated to satisfying those in-between meal hunger pangs – or perhaps boredom – they are now a meal substitute for many people.
According to one survey, at least one in three Australians now say they often eat snacks instead of having a full meal. “There’s been a big swing towards snacking and I think that’s been driven by increasingly busy lifestyles and people’s demand for greater convenience,” says Vanessa Hutchinson, founder of health-bar brand Fodbods.
But don’t mistake the desire for convenience with a willingness to eat anything. “It’s my experience that more people are researching and asking about the ingredients used to make the snacks they’re buying,” says Hutchinson. “They’re after quality.” They also want nutrition.
In fact, food-market researchers say that while indulgent options haven’t necessarily lost their appeal completely, many consumers now classify them as ‘treats’ rather than ‘snacks’. In other words, when it comes to snacking, it’s out with the chips and chocolate and in with quinoa and kale options.
But if the push towards healthy snacking is the bigger, overarching trend, how does that look in detail? Here’s an insight into a handful of the current and emerging snacking trends.
Protein is Powerful
Are you thinking consumers already have access to the ultimate healthy snack in a piece of fruit? Well, yes – and no. For a snack to take the place of a meal, it needs to pack a hunger-busting punch. Increasingly, that means protein. And not just any protein – food-trend researchers say health-conscious consumers want plant-based proteins, such as soy, nut, pea and even mung-bean protein.
Dietary Requirements are a Driver
While one in three Australians is actively pursuing a more plant-based diet, nearly a quarter now make the effort to avoid gluten. Plus, one in five Australians regularly experiences symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome – symptoms that can be alleviated or even prevented by following a low-FODMAP diet, with FODMAPs being a group of sugars that aren’t completely digested or absorbed by the gut.
Hutchinson is one of those people – and Fodbods was born as a result. Not only are Fodbods’ health bars vegan and gluten free, they’re also certified as FODMAP-friendly. “After I discovered specific FODMAPs were causing my symptoms, I found it really difficult to find low-FODMAP snacks that were also healthy,” says Hutchinson. “So I started making my own and the brand just grew from there.”
The uptake since launching the bars in 2019 has been swift. “What’s surprised me is how popular the bars are with people who don’t have gut issues,” she says. “I thought the ‘gut friendly’ market would be Fodbods’ main one, but it’s so much broader than that due to people searching for a healthy snack that also meets one or two dietary preferences or requirements.”
While global market research company Mintel says consumer interest in the health benefits of products has grown thanks to COVID-19, new data from market-research firm Roy Morgan shows one in two Aussies prioritises Australian-made products more than ever in the wake of the pandemic. The news doesn’t surprise Hutchinson. “From the feedback I’ve had, the increased popularity of buying Australian-made on the back of COVID is due to a combination of wanting to support local producers, but also because of trust.”
People and Planet Health Matter, Too
Research shows snacks that taste nice and are good for the planet tend to stand out – particularly among younger consumers. Two-thirds of ‘Gen Z’ consumers (those born between 1995 and 2009) say they would pay more for a snack that has an ethical pedigree, whether that’s because its ingredients are the product of sustainable farming, workers’ rights are prioritised or animal-welfare issues are first and foremost.
‘Faux Health’ Will Fade Out
Not surprisingly, on the back of consumer demand for healthy snacks, the presence of snacks making health claims on their labels has mushroomed. But according to a University of Sydney study published in July 2020, it’s often a case of clever marketing over good nutrition, with many healthy snacks performing no better than regular ones in terms of things like saturated fat and sodium content.
But with Australian consumers becoming more health conscious, faux-health products likely won’t cut it in future. “As well as making sure Fodbods bars perform well regarding the content and ratio of macro nutrients, it’s why I was so passionate about achieving FODMAP-friendly certification,” says Hutchinson. “It’s not an easy process, but it gives an increasingly savvy consumer confidence that they truly can trust what they’re buying.”