Consumers are snacking more than ever. Which trends are leading the way?

One of the hot-button topics at Monday’s Wall Street Journal Global Food Forum was snacking. Globally, snacking has grown significantly in recent years. People are snacking an average of 2.5 times per day, up from 2X per day just a few years ago, according to an article in this week’s Wall Street Journal.

Healthy snacks, especially, have grown, fueled by a customer base with busy lives looking to offset increasingly sedentary jobs. Growing obesity rates, in the Asia-Pacific region in particular, have helped fuel the growth, as people look to improve their diet and course correct.

Rising disposable incomes in emerging markets have also helped the global rise in snack trends. A 2017 Nielsen study found snacks were growing sharply in countries like Argentina, Vietnam, Slovakia, Latvia and Mexico. More and more people around the world are making snacks a regular addition to their basket.

So, what’s hot right now? Here are 5 huge current snack trends that are shaping the category:


  1. Better-For-You Foods

Last week, we wrote about Target’s new Good & Gather brand. One of the key insights used to formulate the brand was Target’s success with “better for you” brands such as Oatly, Annie’s and Clif Bar. This led to their decision to ensure Good & Gather products were free of artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners, and contained no high fructose corn syrup.

Overall, healthy snacks are growing at a faster clip than their more indulgent alternatives. The healthy options are currently growing at a rate of about 6 to 7% annually, compared to the 4 to 5% growth rate for their less-healthy alternatives.

But before going all-in on the “Better-For-You” trend, it’s worth noting that the more indulgent snacks still make up 80% of the overall market, so don’t confuse the trend with the overall landscape. According to Mondelez International CEO Dirk van de Put, “There’s a difference between what people say and what they do.” Still, the high growth rate shouldn’t be ignored. Even with foods with a less-than-perfect nutritional profile, consumers are increasingly reaching for foods with more wholesome ingredients and less artificial flavors and colors.

  1. Spicy Snacks

When it comes to snack trends, hot is hot. Consumers are more intent than ever in scorching their taste buds with Scoville scale crushing levels of spice. Ghost peppers, habanero, Thai Chili and wasabi are just a few of the trending flavors manufacturers have turned to in the race to set consumers’ mouths aflame.

One of the products that helped launch this trend to the top was undoubtedly Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, a snack that has doubled as a viral phenomenon over the past two years. The snack has made its way into delicacies (or abominations, depending on your point-of-view) from Thanksgiving turkeys to ice cream and a plethora of other adventurous gourmet fare.

The trend has emboldened manufacturers to experiment with new spicy products and flavors that are farther off the beaten path, from Flamin’ Hot Dill Pickle chips, to Habanero Roasted Chickpeas, to Gummy Bears that are 900 times hotter than a jalapeno pepper. If you love spicy food, it’s a great time to be alive.

  1. Keto-Friendly Fare

New diets come and go all the time, but the ketogenic diet has proven it has substantial staying power. The diet, which minimizes carbohydrate intake while using fats as the body’s primary energy source, has reignited the once-hot market for low carb alternatives.

So, what kind of foods get to ride the wave of Keto’s popularity? Meats, cheeses, nuts and a surging variety of teats labeled as low carb or keto-friendly.

One group of products that has seen a surge of popularity is chip-like cheese snacks, such as Whisps and Moon Cheese. These products typically have only 1-2g of carbs per serving, while providing 10-15g each of protein and carbs. For Keto dieters, this a nearly ideal ratio.

  1. Jerky

Beef jerky, turkey jerky, pork jerky, bacon jerky. No matter how you slice it, jerky is red hot in snacks right now. Jerky seemingly has it all. It’s a tasty, chewy, salty snack that’s high in protein (and low in fat and carbs), and it usually has the best nutritional profile, relative to competitive snacks in the cupboard.

Whether you’re on Keto, South Beach, Weight Watchers, Paleo or IIFYM, it probably fits relatively easily into your diet. For IIFYM (If It Fits in Your Macros) otherwise known as “Flexible Dieters” in particular, the high protein content is particularly useful. Many IIFYM diets require at least 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight daily, so protein shakes and beef jerky are typically snack staples.

Even vegetarians are making their way into the mix. Upton’s Naturals is one company who has launched a line of seitan jerky in a variety of different flavors including Tamarind Pepperoni and Tarragon Ginger Lime. While they forgo the meat, the texture and chew is similar to the carnivorous alternative.


  1. Beverage Flavored Foods

On the more indulgent side, this year has also seen a surge of tasty beverage inspired treats. Especially popular are snacks based on coffee, tea and alcoholic beverage flavors. You’ll find everything from chips, pretzels and popcorn, to candies, cakes, pies, chocolate bars and ice cream.

One example is On the Rocks Cordials, decadent dark chocolates with a liquid center including flavors such as Moscow Mule, Barrel-Aged Bourbon and Cold Brew Coffee. Another addictive beverage flavored snack is Kettle Chips, whose Beer and Cheddar and Bourbon BBQ flavors are extremely popular.

Which emerging snack trends have you seen? Which area do you believe has the greatest potential for growth? Which of today’s popular trends do you see fading first? We’d love to hear what you think. Sound off on social media now and join the conversation.