How the rise in wellness is shaping our snacking habits

Are healthy snacks here to stay?

Successful Chinese brand Premium Farm came to us for help creating a new brand identity for their UK product line: a range of healthy, freeze-dried fruit snacks. Having munched on a pack of these tasty treats, we explore the world of wellness and its impact on our global snacking habits.

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The way we eat is changing. The Forbes’ Modern Eating 2013 report found that traditional eating patterns – 3 solid meals a day – have given way to a more flexible approach, with frequent snacking taking precedence. But even since the heady days of 2013, things have developed, with food trends pointing firmly in one direction. Thanks to the rise of shiny Instagram influencers, our increasingly stressful lifestyles and global food brands’ increasing input, the wellness industry is now worth a whopping $4.2 trillion (£3.3 trillion). Coming in just after Personal care and Beauty, the Healthy eating, Nutrition and Weight loss sector accounts for the second-largest chunk of this figure at $702.1 billion (£552.2 billion). Although these huge figures seem difficult to process, they clearly indicate that wellness is taking over the world.


But how does this influence snacking?

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Market intelligence agency Mintel put together a report earlier this year discussing the latest trends to impact on the global snacking industry, and guess what came out on top? That’s right: consumers’ pursuit for health and wellness through food and drink. This means food brands are having to think on their feet and adapt to a healthy new landscape. As the wellness epidemic drives sales in this area, packaged-food trends are seeing a rise in the following types of snacks:

  • Free-from: items geared towards those with food intolerances
  • Organic: safe and natural foods
  • Energy-boosting: quick, on-the-go snacks to fuel a busy lifestyle

A key ingredient of energy-boosting snacks is protein. Research suggests protein is currently an important marketing angle for food manufacturers, with consumers actively including it in their diets. As well as championing this popular ingredient, brands are also turning to protein content in the form of quinoa or hemp, bulking up snacks such as the humble energy bar to give the impression of a full-sized meal.

Sustainability also rears its ubiquitous head. The 2019 Mintel study on Chinese consumers points out that they are becoming more and more interested in where their food comes from, and in fact are “selecting their snacks based on a range of ethical factors”. It is therefore in the brand’s best interest to position themselves as a natural company, with an environmentally-friendly approach to production and if possible, sustainable packaging.

The same Mintel study explains that “almost three in five Chinese consumers say that snacking is an indispensable part of their everyday life”, a statistic I’m sure we can all relate to. It goes on to state “consumers are turning to snacks to relieve their stress levels and make them feel happy”, although I’d suggest that maybe this falls out of the remit of healthy eating. After all, nothing cures feeling under the weather like scoffing a giant bar of chocolate.

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But what about the UK market? How do we compare?

According to a Euromonitor study, free-from products saw strong growth during the 2012-2017 period in the UK, supported by supermarkets developing their own lines of healthy snacks. What’s more, in 2016, chocolate legend Mars Wrigley introduced a line of trail mixes (nuts, seeds and dried fruit) under it’s iconic M&M’s label. This marks a major shift for a company that has been producing delights such as Snickers and Skittles for over 100 years.

Earlier this year, Unilever acquired healthy snack subscription company Graze. With tasty snacks ranging from nut and seed combos to rich brownies, Graze was founded in 2008 and has been riding the wellness wave ever since. This huge investment from global giant Unilever shows that healthy snacking is indeed here to stay.


So, what can we learn from this?

If you are a food brand: work on creating a natural, ‘clean’ image to tap into the wellness market. Everyone else: kick back and enjoy your snacks. Just try to choose a healthy one every now and then.

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