The power of protein continues to smack a punch in snacks – and expected to get bigger

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

39% of active lifestylers are consuming a protein-fortified snack once a week. Pic: GettyImages/andresr
39% of active lifestylers are consuming a protein-fortified snack once a week. Pic: GettyImages/andresr

Related tags: Glanbia nutritionals, Protein, better for you, health & wellbeing, functional benefits

Research by Glanbia Nutritionals found 16% of Europeans indulge in protein snacks at least once a week for nourishment, sustained energy and to manage their appetite – but also for enjoyment.

The company’s European Healthy Snacking Innovation Team polled 3,000 consumers across Germany, France, Sweden and Italy, and found they are becoming more discerning about choice and taste, especially as they cut back on those snacks perceived to be less healthy.

The healthy snack trend has paved the way for fortified snacks. In fact, 46% of consumers believe protein bars count as a healthy snack, while 16% are now consuming a protein-fortified option (protein bars, powders, cereals and pancakes) once a week. This jumps significantly to 29% for active lifestyle consumers, and to 40% for sports performance consumers.

“From our research, it’s clear to see that health and wellbeing is a key consideration for consumers, and they are actively seeking out snacks which fit into their healthy lifestyles,”​ said Sonja Matthews, senior manager, Strategic Insights EMEA & ASPAC at Glanbia Nutritionals.

Generally though, the research found that many consumers turn to snacks for nourishment; 32% claim frequent snacking (versus full meals) helps to manage appetite; and 40% reach for a snack to sustain energy throughout the day. 51% also use snacks as a reward or treat, while 43% say they snack when they are bored.

Taste is non-negotiable

While this has opened wide avenues of opportunities for producers to develop products with health benefits, an essential ingredient – as always – is taste.

For consumers, taste is non-negotiable, and the number one requirement. Only once this is fulfilled do consumers consider the protein content, followed by the amount of sugar. Additional consideration for 33% of consumers is ‘does it fill a hole?’. However, for regular protein bar snackers, the claims of ‘low/no sugar’ and ‘a good source of vitamins and minerals’ are particularly important.

Beyond the bar

Glanbias Nutritionals’ research found that it’s not all about protein bars. In fact, it claims the future of protein snacking will extend beyond optimising what is currently in the market, with format innovation playing a key role in expanding usage possibilities and reach more consumers.

European protein bar users are showing an interest in protein cookies (50%) and brownies (47%), for example, while 34% say protein crisps sound appealing. Baked goods such as protein-fortified pastries and doughnuts (30%) are also rated highly, as well as small, bite-sized formats like protein bites (30%) and balls (24%). 34% express an interest in protein spreads.

“Increasingly consumers are looking for protein-fortified products that are seen as a benchmark for health, with RTD protein shakes and bars currently leading the way, most likely thanks to the easy-to-use formats of both products and the fact that they can be consumed on the go,” ​added Matthews.

“However, we are seeing new products hitting the shelves from protein cookies to protein-fortified chocolate bars, showcasing that if a product is innovative and exciting, tastes great, and has the health benefits consumers are looking for, it can really cut through the competition.

“We think this is just the beginning and are excited to continue to work with our customers to help them develop the next big moment in healthy snacking.”

To showcase its expertise in helping producers to upgrade their portfolios, Glanbia Nutritionals has developed Crunchie Milk Protein Crisps, which are consistent in shape and size, light in colour, and easily incorporated into bars and snacks. The big plus? The more than 74% high-quality milk protein.

The company also offers custom premix solutions to create a unique blend of vitamins, minerals and bioactive ingredients, along with functional and nutritional solutions to create everything from soft indulgent protein bars to savoury extruded protein snacks and creamy protein beverages.

Glanbia Nutritionals is a €2.68bn ingredients specialist in proteins, custom premix solutions, cheese, bioactive ingredients, plant-based solutions, flavours, micronutrients, bakery ingredients, functionally optimised nutrients and edible films, sold in over 130 countries worldwide.

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