Do gourmet pork rinds or venison meat bars whet your appetite? A combination of new diets and general eating habits are changing what consumers are looking for when they need a nosh.

Redefining Healthy Snacking

  • With everyone increasingly on the go these days, it should only figure our food is also getting more tailored for speed and convenience. “There has been a large increase in the number of people snacking in the last 30 years as our dietary patterns have shifted and the number of hours we spend at work have increased,” says dietician and nutrition counselor Brett Klein. “This has created an increase in demand for quick, easy food optionsand the market has exploded to meet that demand.”
  • Dietary preferences are also tilting toward lower carb, high-protein options. Notably influential has been the popularity of paleo, keto and Whole 30 diets, each of which incorporates cutting out refined sugars and grains. Paleo and Whole 30 also prioritize removing processed foods, though somewhat ironically, their specific dietary demands are boosting the popularity of packaged foods labeled safe for followers of these diets.
  • Big brands have been aggressively getting in on the growth of this “healthy” snack space. Kraft Heinz’s latest incubator class features seed and bean based snacks. Last year, Hershey spent $420 million to acquire Pirate Brands, makers of Pirate’s Booty, Smart Puffs and Original Tings. Conegra spent $10.9 billion to buy Pinnacle Foods, maker of Smart Balance and Udi’s Gluten Free Foods. PepsiCo bought Bare Foods, which makes fruit and vegetable chips. Beermaker InBev, dealing with slumping beer sales, is backing a snack startup called Protes that makes pea protein-infused chips and popcorn. Next up for Protes are salty snacks made from spent grain leftoverfrom the beer-brewing process.

The Must-Have Conversation

With sales for “healthy” snack brands booming, the overhanging question remains: Are any of these actually good for you (note the quotes around the word healthy)? Whether they make use of cauliflower or mushrooms instead of rice and corn, so-called health snacks tend to pack similar fat and calorie content to the so-called unhealthy options they aim to replace. So, while these new selections may be tasty, they’re not entirely guilt-free.

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