Healthy snacking through the cost-of-living crisis

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Tightening the belt will not only help with the cost-of-living crisis but also keep down a growing waistline. Pic: GettyImages
Tightening the belt will not only help with the cost-of-living crisis but also keep down a growing waistline. Pic: GettyImages

Related tags Whisps Cheese Crisps Acosta consumer behaviour healthy snacking cost of living crisis webinar

Far from a negative, these unsettling times are offering snack producers a rare opportunity, with research proving Americans want more from their snacks.

A survey from Acosta Group found Americans view snacks as an acceptable luxury, while research from Whisps found the majority have pledged to eat healthier snacks. However, one in two consumer admits to being intimidated by nutrition labels.

While the ideal snack profile depends on an individual’s needs, most snackers typically veer towards the trifecta of protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates for that instant boost of energy, but also to keep them satiated in the lean hours between meals.

So found New York-based Whisps, which prides itself on offering snacks with benefits backed up by nutritional science, such as its award-winning 100% real cheese crisps that are packed with protein and calcium.

The New York-based producer commissioned Atomik Research to survey adults living in the US on their snacking habits. The survey – conducted in April 2023 – confirmed the already-known trend that people are replacing meals with snacks, but also found this is happening by up to four meals per week.

With so many swapping out nutritious meals to graze throughout the day, it’s not surprising that 79% of adults are trying to eat healthier snacks.

Healthy snacking AaronAmut
Pic: GettyImages

Stress snacking

Another survey from New Acosta Group found that Americans view snacks as an acceptable luxury in their daily lives, despite the current economic uncertainty. In fact, according to Nielsen, the snacking category still represents big sales, with 12% year-over-year sales growth fuelled by the increased pricing of inflation.

“Without a doubt, we like our snacks, whether enjoyed as comfort food, meal replacements or stress relievers,”​ said Kathy Risch, SVP, Consumer Insights and Trends, Acosta Group, and a speaker on shopping behaviour impact on category sales at the upcoming Sweets and Snacks Expo 2023 (22-25 May in Chicago, US).

According to the survey, 40% of shoppers admit to consuming a large bag of salty snacks in one sitting, with that percentage rising to 74% for Gen Z and 60% for Millennials.

Shoppers are snacking throughout the day, with 43% doing so at night, 32% as a meal and 36% delving into treats when bored – this rises to 47% of Gen Z. Stress snacking is highest among Gen Z (81%), with 68% of parents saying they snack when stressed. Snacks are perceived as a comfort food by 68% of shoppers.

Salty snacks reign, with potato chips in the lead and popcorn becoming the breakout inflation-proof, go-to snack of 2023. Taste is driving choice, followed by value and promotional pricing.

When given a choice, the majority choose healthy snacks over perceived ‘junk food’. Acosta’s survey found those interested in ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ claims are willing to pay more – especially Millennials – driven by a desire to eat healthier and help the environment, reducing the amount of chemicals and pesticides used.

So, far from a negative, these unsettling times are offering snack producers a rare opportunity to make sure the consumer’s choice is on point.

Healthy Snacking in 2023

To learn more about healthy snacking in 2023, tune into Bakery&Snacks' free-to-attend webinar​ on 25 May.

Panellists include:

Healthy Snacking 2023 lineup
  • Sebastian Emig, director general, European Snacks Association
  • Blonnie Whist, insight director, Lumina Intelligence
  • Joanne Burns, Reformulation for Health manager, FDF Scotland
  • Kristy Lewis, founder & CEO of Quinn Snacks

What’s the confusion?

Head spinning Blueastro
Pic: GettyImages

According to the Whisps survey, one in two snackers admit to being intimidated by nutrition labels.

“Having a better understanding of nutrition labelling could be one key to helping snackers make better choices,”​ said nutritionist Bonnie Taub-Dix, a specialist in behaviour and lifestyle modification. Author of Read It Before You Eat It​ – which delves into tricky labels and tells shoppers exactly what should go into their carts – Taub-Dix was also commissioned by Whisps to craft the survey.

With one in two snackers still in a flounder about what makes up a more suitable snack these days, Whisps made it its mission to cut through the confusion.

“We were curious to see how eating patterns have changed when it comes to snacks,”​ said John Ghingo, CEO of Whisps.

“As we move into summer, snacks are even more essential to our daily routines. Kids are home, schedules are more flexible and families are taking road trips and vacations, which call for quick, on-the-go, nutritious snacks.”

Every snacker’s distinct needs and wants differs, confirmed Taub-Dix, however, the snack that offers the key trifecta of protein, healthy fats and carbs wins every time.

“A grab-and-go snack like Whisps – paired with a carbohydrate like an apple – provides the perfect combination of protein, fat and carbs for lasting energy. In fact, according to the survey, 70% of American adults say they actually prefer protein-rich snacks,”​ she added.


Each 2.12oz bag of Whisps Cheese Crisps provides 10g+ of protein, depending on the variant – Cheddar, Parmesan and Asiago & Pepper Jack – available online from Whisps, Amazon, Walmart online and Thrive Market for an RRP of $4.49. The brand also offers Cheese & Nuts Snack Mixes and a line of Bites products, including Baked Cheese Bites and Cheese & Pretzel Bites.

Key learnings

From its study, Acosta Group has identified a few areas of opportunity for snack brands:

  • Highlight health attributes that have broad appeal (calories, sugar, fat, carbs) and focus innovation efforts on attributes such as clean ingredients
  • Explore organic line extensions as well as shelf placement alongside other organic items on the physical and digital shelf
  • Develop portable, resealable packaging to promote convenience for on-the-go consumption of snacks for busy consumers and their families
  • Create promotional pricing strategies that encourage impulse buys, reassuring shoppers that it's okay to treat themselves
  • Design an integrated shopping experience as more consumers purchase snacks online and instore across multiple formats

Acosta Group’s Snacks Shopper Insights Study was conducted in February/March 2023 among 1,706 of its proprietary Shopper Community (comprised of over 40,000 demographically diverse shoppers across the US)

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