Even though the World Health Organization has declared the COVID-19 pandemic officially over, the effects of it will linger for the foreseeable future. Between the pandemic and the continuing influence of social media in shaping trends, people are more aware than ever before of the need for making healthy food choices. This is particularly notable with snack foods, an area that has traditionally been dominated by high-calorie, nutrient-thin processed options. As we continue here in 2023, look for snack foods to become even more health-oriented.
The Rise of Holistic Nutrition
Consumers choosing healthy snacks isn’t really new, but the latest trends are favoring more specific health concerns over general ones. Rather than just looking at carbs and fat, for instance, consumers are looking for products that can cleanse, detox, or provide additional health benefits. This tracks with a larger trend, partly driven by social media influencers, toward holistic nutrition that aims to improve overall health and wellbeing through food products that cater to an individual’s health needs.
A perfect example of this kind of nutrition is foods that are believed to improve “gut health,” the term for the microbiome that resides in the digestive tract. Research from recent years has shown that there is a clear connection between gut health and other aspects of health. Snacks that are meant to boost the diversity of the microbiome contain probiotics and prebiotics. Examples of gut-friendly snack ingredients include sauerkraut (essentially fermented cabbage), yogurt, or pickled cucumbers or other vegetables.
Snacks for Mood Boosting
Another way that consumers are looking to improve their health through food choices is related to mood and cognition. This comes at a time when research continues to show that fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and other compounds that have a beneficial impact on mood, wellbeing, and brain function. As a result, more food manufacturers are using a variety of fruit and vegetable ingredients to make brain-friendly snack items that are cleaner and less-processed. Examples include muffins with vegetables like zucchini and carrots as well as butternut squash chips.
Besides causing a renewed focus on health, the pandemic also put tremendous pressure on supply chains and the sources for many different food products. This caused price inflation that still irks consumers to this day, and it has also shaped the way people buy snacks. This, along with an increase in snacking as meal replacement, has led consumers to integrate cost-conscious snacking into their regular daily diet. A popular example is protein bars; what was once the province of hikers and gym goers has now become a meal replacement and can include protein supplements as well as nuts, granola, and dried fruit blends.
Most people probably don’t think of mushrooms when they think of traditional snack foods, but they have seen a rise in popularity in recent years. Mushroom varieties like boletus luteus and champignon have been used as ingredients in various sauces, soups, pasta products, and ready meals for a long time because of their flavor and functional health benefits. Yet the same reasons they’re welcome in full meals has also made them a new trend in snack items. In addition to mushroom jerky and chips, mushrooms are even being used in snack bars and beverages.
The Return of Dips and Spreads
One of the most challenging aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic for many people was the restriction on social gatherings. Beyond leaving us isolated and in need of connection, this meant that party-oriented foods like dips and spreads fell out of favor for a time. In 2023, though, consumers are settling back into pre-pandemic habits and gathering for parties, sporting events, and special occasions. Yet dips and spreads have become even more popular and now are considered an everyday snack or even part of a full meal.
Dips and spreads have traditionally not been thought of as healthy foods because the base tends to be cheese, cream, mayonnaise, or another fatty ingredient. Even classics like spinach and artichoke dip have switched out higher fat ingredients for Greek yogurt or cottage cheese. Other healthy, plant-based options like hummus continue to grow in popularity and go well with all kinds of vegetables like carrots, celery, and bell pepper slices. Healthy dips and spreads are even another way that snacks are bridging the gap between snacking and meals.
Snacking in the Morning
Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the largest cohorts driving trends in snacking is young people under the age of 35; in fact, some market research has seen that more than a third of people 18-24 now snack in the morning rather than having a formal breakfast. Snack items in this area tend to be eaten on-the-go, but it’s now less Pop-tarts and donuts and more yogurt and smoothies. Smoothies and juices are especially popular because they can include vegetable ingredients like kale or spinach that are known for providing various nutrients and health benefits.
Silva: Your Source for Dehydrated Vegetable Products
Now that we’ve all started to move on from the pandemic, trends in snacking and other areas of food production will continue to change based on countless societal forces. As America’s relationship with food continues to mature, however, healthy snack foods will likely become more and more sought after. At Silva, we aim to provide the highest quality dehydrated ingredients that can feature in any kind of snack product. If you’d like to learn more about any of our ingredients, or if you’d like to find out what it’s like to partner with Silva, please contact us today.