COVID-19: Snacking Trends

Snacks continue to be an important aspect in people’s new-normal lives during and after the pandemic. Since health awareness has risen dramatically from COVID-19, many are seeking additional health benefits from their snacks, especially from added ingredients that aid with immunity and holistic wellness. Snacking in general rose significantly during the pandemic as a way to cope with stress, and resulted in weight gain issues for some people; as a result, people are seeking healthy replacements for their comfort food snacks that still have aspects of being a comfort food. As an additional weight control factor, people are looking for different packaging and size options in snacks to help with portion control. Finally, there is a need for more affordable healthy snacks, since people want to eat healthier and cannot always afford the premium healthy products, especially due to added financial burdens from the pandemic.

Background Information — Increased Demand for Healthy Snacks

  • The stay-at-home orders of COVID-19 and people working from home has created a surge in the snacks industry.
  • As the pandemic continues and people adapt to a more sedentary lifestyle, their habits have shifted towards more healthy snacks in an effort to combat weight gain.
  • According to a study by FMCG Gurus, COVID-19 has caused 80% of people (23,000 people across 18 countries) to look for healthier food options, as evidenced by increased healthy snack sales for adults and children from retailers.

Trend #1 — Support Health and Immunity

  • According to research done by Ai Palette and Frost and Sullivan, before the pandemic people consumed snacks as a comfort food and convenience. During the pandemic, focus has shifted to healthy snack options that are nutritious as people become more aware of how diet impacts overall health.
  • While taste is still a top consideration, according to Olive Bai (marketing manager of savoury snacks at Kerry APMEA) consumers are also looking at ingredients that will help boost immunity, such as vitamins and proteins; this is because health is on everyone’s mind during the pandemic.
  • Since health concerns are on the forefront due to COVID-19, Canteen believes that preventative health factors will also become part of food and snacks. Canteen believes that the use of adaptogens as ingredients will increase, since these plants help the body resist physical, chemical, and biological stressors.
  • Due to the pandemic, people have become more aware of the impact of what they eat; people feel a sense of control and that they are taking preventative measures by eating healthier foods, including snacks, that have immune boosting benefits.
  • Some people saw the quarantine as an opportunity to become healthier by doing body cleanses, supported by healthy snacks.
  • People are looking for snacks that they can incorporate into a holistic wellness approach with their diets, and want the snacks to have benefits on boosting immunity, and helping with sleep, stress, and digestion. Ingredients such as probiotics, and herbs and spices, such as ginseng and turmeric, are becoming popular additions to snacks.
  • Conagra has recently launched new snack items with plant-based ingredients to appeal to consumers who want healthier snack options.
  • Kind now offers breakfast bars with probiotics to address the trend for gut health and digestion.
  • RW Garcia, in addition to being gluten-free, offers a lentil cracker with turmeric, amongst many other healthy varieties.

Trend #2 — Comfort Food and Weight Control Factors

  • Comfort food is seen as a coping mechanism for stress, and as people are adapting to the new normal of being at home more, they are looking for healthier snack alternatives that can still be viewed as comfort food.
  • According to Canteen, comforting herbal ingredients and flavors, such as chamomile, will become more prevalent in foods and snacks.
  • Canteen believes that granola, seen as a traditional comfort food, will gain popularity, due to the nutritional value of nuts, fruits, and grains. Advantage also reports an increase in sales of bulk dried fruits and nuts as healthy bulk snack items.
  • Research done by The Hartman Group indicates that people are having trouble controlling portion sizes as they work at home; the smaller packaging of snack items is helpful in this area so they may still have their comfort foods. Danone CEO Emmanuel Faber believes, “People will move to healthier versions of comfort foods and rebalance their diets as the pandemic continues.”
  • Due to the perceived loss of control because of COVID, people are turning to food as an aspect of their lives they can control, and in turn are making changes to incorporate comfort and wellness as deciding factors in their snacks.
  • Mars Global Emerging Markets President, Blas Maquivar, indicates that through their partnership with Kind and their new size and packaging innovations, Mars is helping consumers make healthier snacking choices to assist with weight and wellness concerns.
  • According to Flavorchem market analyst Rebecca Shurhay, people want comfort food snacks that will benefit them on a holistic level and seeking treats with functional ingredients such as probiotics, turmeric, ginger, elderflower, and antioxidants. She sites cookies with probiotics or cake mixes with added nutrients or antioxidants as examples.
  • Gut Happy Cookies by Uplift claim to provide benefits for immunity, gut, and digestive health, catering both to comfort food replacements and health benefits that consumers are looking for.
  • As a comfort food option for those craving potato chips with a nutritional benefit, Quest Nutrition offers a line of protein chips with a variety of flavors.

Trend #3 — Reduced Cost and Increased Accessability

  • Due to financial concerns and stay-at-home orders, people are looking for affordable healthy snacks, and in accessible locations and packaging.
  • According to Maximo Torero, chief economist of the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, “The pandemic is creating a problem not of food availability, but of food access, because people will have less income because of the recession.”
  • There is a need in the market for affordable healthy snacks to meet the demands of people trying to make healthier choices, amidst financial struggles due to the pandemic.
  • U.S. retailer Coborn has launched a Dietitian’s Corner website, and is using that and social media to promote affordable healthy snack options.
  • According to Danone’s CEO Faber, Danone is working to produce more affordable healthy options to meet the rising consumer demands, especially for traditionally more expensive indulgent items.
Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at The Digital Momentum with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.

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