The Latest Snack Trends & the High Demand for Protein Bars

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Not surprisingly, the pace of modern life has redefined “mealtime” for millions of people. With the onslaught of convenient high-protein meal replacement bars and other snacking options, snacks serve as at least one of the three major meals of the day for more than half of consumers. 

With increasing reliance on snacks as meals, it’s safe to say that gone are the days of traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner. It also explains the rapid growth of the healthy snack segment, which easily outperforms others in the food and beverage industry.

Snack Trends by the Numbers

Nearly every American (95%) snacks at least once a day, and 70% do so more than twice daily, according to Mintel’s Snacking Motivations and Attitudes report. And then there are the “super snackers,” those who snack more than four times per day. This group of consumers is seeing a drastic increase in numbers. 

Americans consumed billions of ready-to-eat snack foods last year. At a value of nearly $64 billion, U.S. snackers far outrank other nations in spending. Japan trails far behind in second place with less than $9 billion in sales, followed by China, India, the United Kingdom and Canada. 

Industry Trends and Opportunities

Convenience and portability makes healthy snacks particularly attractive to the on-the-go crowd, as does nutritional value. Many in the food industry have already taken note of this snack trend, developing snack formulations that showcase ingredients with proven health benefits. 

For example, protein-rich smoothies, sports drinks, granola bars and yogurt are already proven winners with consumers. However, demand for additional functional and nutritious snack food options continues to grow as consumers become even more savvy about nutrition, clean labels and the value of protein, fiber and whole grains in healthy lifestyles.

Protein bars, for example, are no longer just a go-to snack for fitness enthusiasts or body builders. Average consumers reach for high-protein food products more often, especially those pursuing one of many trending diets. Typical options have around 200 calories and can have as much as 20 grams of protein or more. Food and beverage companies are also responding to consumer demand for no added sugar or artificial flavors or colors to promote wellness.

RELATED: The Truth About Whey Protein vs. Plant-based Protein

What’s more, consumers also expect unique, indulgent and savory flavor profiles and textures. It’s not uncommon to see protein bars competing with candy bars at checkout aisles, and the innovative flavor combinations, packaging and added nutrition are giving traditional confections a run for their money, quite literally.

This presents food manufacturers with opportunities to reformulate popular snacks and bars to include ingredients that pack a nutritive punch. This includes adding protein to applications, which is sought after by more and more Americans for its ability to satiate hunger and boost energy.

Ingredient Solutions to Address Formulation Challenges

In the past, some protein bars and snacks that served as a healthy alternative to those containing saturated fats and high sugar also lacked flavor. It wasn’t uncommon for those products to also have dry or chalky textures. 

Some formulators addressed the sugar problem by incorporating natural sweeteners or sugar alcohols, such as erythritol, xylitol and others. Achieving an appealing texture and mouthfeel, however, is equally important to taste, and is a major contributor to promoting feelings of fullness and satiety.

To capitalize on the latest protein snack trends and overcome formulation challenges, consider incorporating various forms of whey protein. A popular high-protein solution includes whey protein isolate (WPI), such as our all-natural Grande Ultra®. Because it’s not a commodity WPI and is produced following a strict chain of custody through regional sourcing, food safety is of no concern and it complies with clean label initiatives. Its clean flavor profile and proprietary manufacturing process allow other flavors to shine through without resulting in a gritty or chalky texture.

Another common protein ingredient is whey crisps, which add a light, crunchy texture that is so appealing to many consumers. Our Grande WPCrisp®, with its neutral flavor profile, is a great complement to the primary ingredients of your snack formulation. Like all our other protein ingredients, it is an ethically sourced, clean label ingredient that is a familiar favorite and trusted by consumers.

Find out more by downloading our Grande WPCrisp Taste & Texture Comparison Study. See first hand how the leading soy, rice, and pea protein crisps stack up to whey protein crisps in four different snack applications based on taste, texture, appearance and protein quality. Click the button below to get your free copy.

Our expert team of food scientists is here to help you address formulation challenges, improve nutrition and expand your supply chain to include innovative whey ingredients that outperform commodity products, so get in touch

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