The 21 biggest trends in snack food

31 July 2023, 12:47 PM
  • From healthy snacks, to traditional fare, on-the-go, or sustainable choices, Speciality Food’s latest edition of Snack Buyer has all the intel you need to supercharge your snack sales
The 21 biggest trends in snack food

Ready to delve into a world of stocking opportunities? The 2023 edition of Snack Buyer is out now, and here we’ve rounded up the top snacking insights from this year’s publication to help you make informed decisions about what to stock. 

Read on to discover the top trends for 2023, and download a free copy of Snack Buyer to learn more and meet the innovators behind some of the nation’s best artisan brands.

On-the-go snacking

We lead busy lives. Between work, family, and general daily admin, it can often prove tricky to carve out time for sitting down with a proper meal. That’s where on-the-go snacks come in, providing a simple solution for our foodie fixes with their handy boosts of energy.

According to consumer insight research from FMCG Gurus, 30% of global consumers find convenience appealing when seeking out snacks, and they’re willing to pay a premium. Equally, their data shows the health credentials of snacking products have never been so important – particularly when it comes to breakfast.

1. Breakfast on the run

Meal skipping is common, with breakfast and lunch most commonly missed according to FMCG Gurus. In their research, 47% of those surveyed didn’t eat in the morning, often attributed to lack of time or hunger. This has led to a rise in consumer search for the perfect breakfast on-the-go.

Mintel’s insight echoes this data. During lockdown, cooked morning meals (from a full English to porridge) were normalised, whereas now, with workforces returning to the office, the tides have turned. Growth is heavily expected, particularly in breakfast biscuits and cereal or snack bars.

Three products to stock
Boka Cereal Bars - The only cereal bars on the UK market with four green traffic lights on the front. Available in Apple Cinnamon, Caramel, Choco Mallow and Strawberry, they are vegan, gluten-free and high in fibre.
Nairn’s Crunchy Oat Bars - A brand-new launch, made with wholegrain jumbo oats and half the sugar of many other cereal bars. Available in Honey, Belgian Dark Chocolate Chunk and Raisin, Apple & Cinnamon flavours.
Rise Banana & Peanut Butter Blitzed Grain Porridge Pots - A gluten-free, no added sugar alternative to mass market porridge pots. Just add hot water.

2. Lunch to go

According to Mintel, the return to the workplace has bolstered sales of food on the go, with consumers increasingly looking for easy-to-consume products that fill the gap between breakfast and lunch and beyond. 

High protein, high fibre options are proving popular, keeping office workers fuller for longer. For artisan retailers, key offerings include snack-sized cheese and charcuterie, as well as dried meat products such as biltong.

Three products to stock
The Perfect British Cheeseboard - From Butlers, a petite serving of three of their top sellers (Sunday Best, Blacksticks Blue, Button Mill), in one 100% recyclable pack. Serves one to two people.
Snackalami ‘Classic’ - Inspired by traditional French saucisson. Made with outdoor-reared Kentish pork, gluten-free and keto-friendly, seasoned with garlic and pepper.
Billy Franks Buffalo Hot Wing Turkey Jerky - An international award-winning high protein snack, made in London with air dried British free-range turkey, and only 93 calories per bag. This one has a spicy kick.

3. Fruit snacks to go

Although global research suggests chocolate is the snack we turn to the most (approximately 83% of us according to FMCG Gurus), there is growing evidence that fruit is coming back into fashion. Insight from the Gurus shows 70% of consumers are looking for a healthier alternative. Now is the time, then, to invest in some of the new wave on the go fruit snacks coming to market – from dried fruit bars to fruit crisps.

Three products to stock
Pukpip White Chocolate - Launched as singles this summer, coming in at 152 calories each. Frozen banana in white chocolate with a hint of vanilla. Nothing artificial added.
Soul Fruit Dragon Fruit Chips - Unique slices of 100% natural dragon fruit, dried to a crisp. A single serve is one of your five a day.
Squished Blueberry Rescue Fruit Balls - Each 40g pack is made with 50 blueberries ‘rescued’ from becoming surplus waste. With no added sugar, gluten or nuts.

Traditional snacking

Snacks remain a reassuring indulgence for consumers during stressful times. You can’t go wrong keeping it classic with tried-and-trusted formats like crisps or nuts in traditional flavours. Nostalgia remains a key driver for sales, so a packet of salt and vinegar or cheese and onion aren’t to be sniffed at, but don’t be afraid of providing a twist on a familiar product.

4. Classic crisps

Dress them up in posh vinegars and spices, or keep them simple in ready salted, us Brits will take our crisps as they come. YouGov’s The Rise of the Snacker report found that 65% of snackers in Great Britain enjoy a packet of crisps at least once a week.

Your snacking aisle won’t be complete without a good selection of quality packets. Whether you choose to experiment with healthy versions or go for zany flavours will depend on your particular customer base, but we say you can’t possibly go wrong with a few classics thrown in for good measure.

Three products to stock
Savoursmiths Desert Salt - Pure, crystal white desert salt from an ancient and pristine source in the Kalahari Desert creates an exceptional tasting crisp. 
Kent Crisps Oyster & Vinegar - Inspired by the famous Whitstable oysters, this flavour is just like a taste of the Kentish seaside.
Lancashire Crisps Lancashire Sauce - Lancashire Sauce, made from a secret recipe, is sprinkled gently by hand onto crisps just after cooking to give a gentle spicy kick.

5. Nuts and seeds

Are nuts about to have their moment? While the introduction of restrictions on snacks that are high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) are set to hit sales of crisps and other savoury snacks, this classic pub snack is excluded, which could result in more impulse buys due to their increased in-store promotion. 

“Amidst upcoming HFSS restrictions on product location, boosting in-aisle visibility and launching non-HFSS snacks will be important in getting brands noticed and driving unplanned purchases,” said Richard Caines, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel.

For those in need of a savoury flavour-bomb, now’s the time to go for nuts, seeds and other naturally healthy snacks. 

Three products to stock
ManiLife Deep Roast Salted Peanuts - Made with the brand’s signature highest-quality, single-estate peanuts, deeply roasted to create a more intense flavour profile and then simply lightly salted.
Munchy Seeds Mega Omega - Vegan savoury roasted seven seed mix, with a delicious tamari flavour, high in Omega 3. 
The Real Smoked Nut Company Hickory Smoked Cashews - The finest quality cashew nuts, traditionally smoked over hickory woodchips in a brick kiln, then roasted and salted.

6. Meat snacks

Despite the rise in veganism and plant-based eating, not everyone is swearing off meat. In fact, snacking giant PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division is planning an expansion into meat snacks such as jerky. The meat snack industry is expected to be worth £454m by 2027, having grown a whopping 38% in the past two years alone – making it the fastest-growing food and drink category in the UK – according to research by Pilgrim’s Food Masters. Meanwhile, searches for biltong, a South African-inspired dried meat, increased 38% over the last five years, according to trend tracker Exploding Topics. However, if your customers are super keen on vegan innovation, the team at Glanbia Nutritionals said plant-based jerky made from wheat, jackfruit, mushrooms and even pea protein is a snack to watch in 2023.

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen a huge boom in snacking overall, but meat snacking has carved itself out a niche and, thanks to explosive growth, become a category in its own right,” said Conor Lowry, category controller at Pilgrim’s Food Masters.

Three products to stock
Made for Drink Biltong Original Seasoning - Enjoy 100% grass-fed Irish beef seasoned to time-honoured South African traditions.
• Trailhead Get Jerky Original Wild Venison Jerky - This Wild Venison Jerky is marinated in homemade recipes for up to four hours and hand-cut for quality.
Kings Veggie Jerky Black Bean Sauce Flavour - Plant-based, vegan-friendly and perfect for anyone in need for delicious protein on the go.

7. Nostalgic snacks

It’s no surprise that many of us enjoy snacks for the sense of comfort they give us. While innovation and experimentation are important as tastes and preferences evolve, as we move forward we shouldn’t forget why people love to snack in the first place. After all, for 73% of consumers, taste overrides healthiness, according to research by Mintel. Retailers can also find success by delivering on nostalgia, so ensure you’re well placed to leverage key snacking events like holidays and celebratory occasions.

Healthy snacking

The future of snacking is looking healthier than ever as consumers hunt down treats with ingredients boasting wellbeing-promoting benefits. These so-called functional ingredients are supported by a rise in consumers who see food and drink as an area of their life they can use to optimise their wellbeing. Government regulations on products with HFSS have also spurred innovation to produce snacks that satisfy consumers’ cravings without being too indulgent. 

“To win in this space, manufacturers need to create products that support top concerns such as immune, digestive, cognitive, joint and heart health, and include science-backed functional ingredients to increase credibility,” said Soumya Nair, global director of consumer research and insights at Kerry.

8. High-protein snacks

Thanks to the versatile benefits of protein, which plays a role in supporting health, weight management and fitness, brands are always keen to highlight their snacks’ protein value on pack. With shoppers returning to a busier pace of live post-Covid, Mintel reports that consumers are increasingly replacing meals with snacks across all three standard mealtimes, often reaching for protein snack to stay fuller for longer. While protein-packed snacks traditionally took the form of bars and cookies, you can now find protein claims on savoury snacks like crisps and nuts, too.

“Protein-rich foods continue to dominate new product launches, with grams of protein often featured on the front of the package. For today’s consumers, protein signals a healthier product. The demand for plant-based protein, in particular, continues to grow as more consumers embrace a flexitarian eating pattern,” according to Glanbia Nutritionals’ What’s New in the Snack Aisle for 2023 report.

Three products to stock
Keto Balls Peanut Butter Blondie - Sweet, with a subtle saltiness, this flavour combines creamy peanut butter and crunchy peanut pieces to create a truly tantalising snack. 
Honest Bean Co Roasted Fava Bean Snack - Grown in British soil and HFSS compliant, these beans are high in fibre and protein, roasted to perfection and seasoned generously for maximum flavour.
Saved Lentil Puffs Sour Cream & Onion - These high-protein lentil puffs are made with cricket protein that contributes to the development of a more sustainable food supply chain.

9. Gut health friendly snacks

Happy guts remain high on the health agenda for consumers. Data-gathering experts at Kantar say the trend continues to grow from strength to strength thanks to a significant appetite for digestive health products. Average monthly online searches for gut health have risen 85%, according to Kantar’s Dx Global Trends Report on Food and Beverages. Fibre is associated with supporting digestive health, and consumers associate snacks, crisps and crackers made with whole grains, nuts and seeds as good sources of fibre.

Three products to stock
Good & Honest Sweet Chilli Popped Veggie Crisps - Plant-based, natural snacks with a great crunch made from purple sweet potato, green peas and chickpeas.
Munchy Seeds Warm Cumin & Fennel - Vegan, spicy roasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds with fragrant cumin, fennel and chilli for a Mediterranean burst of flavour.
Bio&Me Gluten-Free Gut-Loving Granolas Cashew & Almond - Packing a prebiotic punch and high in fibre, these new gluten-free granolas contain no added sugar and are 100% plant-based.

10. Free-from snacks

The free-from category continues to see new product launches every year as more brands look to innovate their way to success. Whether shoppers are addressing food allergies or looking to cut out certain ingredients for other health reasons, snacks that account for these sensitivities are becoming a vibrant category in their own right. 

Three products to stock
Pea Pops Delicious Chickpea Crisps Cheddar and Onion - Award-winning chickpea crisps with 20% plant-based protein, gluten-free and 60% less fat than regular fried crisps, made with all natural ingredients.
Roots & Wings Organic MultiSeed Brittles with Dates & Black Olives - Savoury, crunchy organic crackers packed with the tastiest seeds with date and black olives. Gluten, dairy-free and suitable for vegans.
RAWMYGOD Keto Bars - This high-fibre nuts and seeds bar is also vegan, low-sugar, and gluten-free.

11. Superfood snacks

Health-conscious consumers are searching for foods that will make them feel better both physically and mentally. Snacks are increasingly seen as a way to either provide a burst of focus and energy or promote calm and sleep. According to a global survey by ingredients company Kerry, 86% of consumers said they would pay a premium for food and beverages with added functional benefits.

Ingredients that support stress management and brain function are in the spotlight. Ashwagandha is believed to relieve stress, increase energy levels, and improve concentration, and has seen average monthly searches online more than double, according to Kantar’s Dx Global Trends Report on Food and Beverages. Meanwhile, searches for lion’s mane, which is believed to help the brain, heart and gut, rose by 65%. As these ingredients shift from fringe wellness products to well-known ingredients, it’s only a matter of time before we see them cropping up in health-focused snacks for savvy shoppers. 

Innovative snacking

Innovation is shaking up the food sector as ingredient labels get an overhaul with the latest trending flavours. Be prepared to stock exciting new treats spanning the full spectrum of flavour, from fiery spice to savoury seaweed.

“This year we are seeing consumers desire emerging and adventurous flavours with mainstream favourites. Whether it’s a nostalgic treat, a comfort dish or a healthy alternative, consumers expect a greater variety of tastes in 2023,” said Soumya Nair, global consumer research and insights director at Kerry.

Keep your eyes trained on hot new product launches, and don’t be afraid of taking a punt on a snack with an out-there ingredient – it could just be the next big thing.

12. Seaweed snacks

Seaweed isn’t only for sushi. These days, it’s viewed as a fully fledged superfood. This nutrient-dense, umami snack is on more consumers’ radars as they experiment with new flavours and ingredients. Seaweed contains antioxidants as well as other vitamins and minerals and is believed to support heart health. Kantar’s Dx Global Trends Report on Food and Beverages says that while types of seaweed like spirulina and kelp are already front and centre in the supplement space, searches for these products in new formats is growing as consumers look for ways to incorporate them into their diets. It only stands to reason that the snacking sector will make the most of this hot ingredient.

Three products to stock
SHORE Seaweed Chips Lightly Salted - All-natural, 100% plant-based chips made from sustainably hand-picked Scottish seaweed.
Easy Bean Seaweed & Sesame - Handmade using nutty-tasting chickpea flour and baked using a nutritious blend of native seaweed. Naturally gluten-free, wheat-free and high in fibre.
Wavy Wonders Seaweed and Seed Snack - A nod to classic Scandinavian flavours with wild garlic and yoghurt, for those that love a forest walk in the spring.

13. Spicy snacks

While Brits’ capacity for spice occasionally makes us the butt of international jokes, for a country where curry is one of the most popular cuisines it’s no surprise to see a taste for the hot stuff growing. In recent years, Bowman Ingredients noted a diversification in general ‘spicy’ flavourings into more niche and regionalised variants, like Korean, North African and South American (think gochujang, harissa and chimichurri, respectively). This year, Whole Foods Market pointed to the rising popularity of chilli varieties like ancho and cayenne. 

“Affinity for spicy food continues as consumers increasingly appreciate the depth and balance of heat and flavour. The refinement of the palate for these flavour profiles is evident and is set to grow,” according to Kantar’s Dx Global Trends Report on Food and Beverages.

Three products to stock
Taylors Snacks Jalapeño & Mature Cheddar Ridge Cut Crisps - Take the oozy, cheesy goodness of nachos and mix with the tangy chilliness of jalapeños – and Jalapeno & Mature Cheddar ridge crisps are born.
Good Things Snacks Smoky & Spicy Nut Mix - Smoked almonds lead a cast of spicy chickpeas, roasted corn and chilli peanuts in this delicious bonfire of a nut mix. Smoky, spicy and downright moody.
• Superbon Pimento Chips - Potato crisps flavoured with Spanish paprika and cayenne pepper.

14. Non-potato crisps

With more and more brands moving away from potatoes, Brits are coming to embrace inventive crisps. Over the years, we’ve seen the steady adoption of root vegetable crisps like beetroot and parsnip, and more recently crisps made from pulses like lentils and chickpeas. Now, up-and-coming brands are focusing on nutritious vegetables like mushrooms and broccoli to attract health-conscious shoppers.

Three products to stock
• Real Naturals Shiitake Mushroom Chips - Shiitake mushroom chips that ooze flavour with a big mushroom umami hit.
Petty Wood & Co. Karma Bites - Made from the highest quality popped lotus seeds, combining clean and simple ingredients with a love for honest and healthy eating that doesn’t compromise on taste.
Other Foods Crunchy Artichoke Chips - Vegan, gluten-free, and made with three simple, clean ingredients. Palm oil-free and packed with gut-friendly probiotics. 

15. Novel flavours in snacking

New ingredients and flavours are always evolving, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the innovation radar to stay up-to-date with the latest consumer demands.
Uni – With a briny, umami flavour, consumer trend forecaster WGSN predicts uni – the only edible part of sea urchins – will move from fine dining menus to packaged goods this year.
Hawaiian, Indonesian and Nigerian inspiration – In the US, Kantar’s data shows a growing interest in these cuisines. With many food trends making the US-to-UK migration, these could be areas to watch in the years to come. 
Avocado oil – More and more snacks will soon be boasting avocado oil as a star ingredient, according to Whole Foods’ 2023 trend report, thanks to its high oleic fatty acid content, which is better for heart health than other mainstream oils.

Sustainable snacking

As conscious consumers bring their ethical mindset to the snacking aisle, retailers will be rewarded for offering vegan options, as well as stocking brands that cut down on packaging waste and use sustainable ingredients. Look out for animal-free products and those that steer clear of ingredients that consumers have turned their backs on, like palm oil. Snacking brands that utilise recyclable packaging like aluminium tins or glass jars will be particularly attractive to mindful consumers.

16. Snacks with sustainable packaging

Snacks may still be impulse buys for many consumers, but reducing waste is a top priority. Mondelēz’s State of Snacking report, found that seven in 10 people believe sustainable packaging helps them enjoy their snack more, and a whopping 82% say they wished that more snacks had biodegradable packaging. While packaging that incorporates recycled materials is a start, consumers will be eyeing up any brands that are making a leap towards the use of recyclable or even biodegradable packaging.

Three products to stock
Two Farmers Woodland Mushroom and Wild Garlic - Premium hand-cooked crisps flavoured with woodland mushrooms and a hint of wild garlic in compostable packaging.
Cambrook Foods Chocolate Almonds - Baked Californian almonds coated with a salted dark, a creamy milk and a rich white chocolate. Made in traditional chocolate coating pans.
MediSalad by Delicias - A ready-to-eat Mediterranean salad which is crammed full of goodness. Vegan and comes in an innovative eco-friendly packaging.

17. Plant-based snacks

Globally, 64% of consumers say they would try a plant-based version of their favourite snack, according to Mondelēz’s report, and over a third say they already have. While they may not be swearing off meat and cheese entirely, many consumers are open to the idea of trying plant-based products. Seven in 10 believe plant-based snacks are better for the future of the planet, according to Mondelēz’s findings, and snack manufacturers have taken note. Plant-based innovation in the sector is growing, with producers branching out to less explored vegan meats and new formats, like plant-based jerky.

“Whilst plant-based snacks are still relatively niche compared to their dairy and meat counterparts, vast opportunities lie ahead as consumer demand ramps up with consumers looking to reduce animal-based foods, whether through a vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian diet,” said Margaux Laine, senior analyst of food and nutrition, at Euromonitor International. According to Euromonitor International’s Voice of Consumer: Lifestyles survey, 30% of consumers are looking to reduce their consumption of animal products.

Three products to stock
Simply Roasted Duck & Hoisin - Using entirely plant-based ingredients, the new on-trend flavour is fragrant, sweet and rich in flavour. 
Jade & Joy Wellbeing Caramel Blondie - Created to support the wellness of both the body and mind. Free from gluten and dairy, vegan-friendly, low in calories, low in sugar and high in protein.
YuBi Bar S’mores Protein Bar - Healthy protein bars with 10g of plant-based protein per serving. Also free from gluten and dairy.

18. Snacks with planet-friendly ingredients

It’s an unavoidable truth that sustainable and Fairtrade ingredients often come with a bigger price tag. However, it seems more consumers are putting their money where their mouths are and are willing to spend a bit more for food and drink that is better for the planet. 

Nearly two-thirds of the British public either agree or strongly agree that buying sustainably sourced food is “a lifestyle change you can make to help protect food grown in countries at risk of climate change”, a recent poll commissioned for Fairtrade Fortnight found. Nearly half (44%) of people choose products that are sustainably sourced, such as Fairtrade, organic, vegan or locally produced, the research found. With innovative brands repurposing products that were destined for the bin or utilising climate-hero ingredients, such as fava beans, teff, algae and more, this area is certainly one to watch.

Luxury snacking

We may be in the grip of a cost-of-living crisis, but you wouldn’t know it by the way consumers are snacking. Splurging on treats is seen as an affordable luxury, and one that is much needed to offer a moment of joy in hard times. Mintel’s recent snacking market report found that 62% of UK consumers agree that having snacking in the evening is an affordable treat.

“With the rising cost of living, shoppers will be focusing more closely on what they are buying, potentially putting discretionary items like snacks under scrutiny. However, as seen during Covid-19 lockdowns, snacks could actually benefit from more evenings in given their perceived affordability as treats,” said Richard Caines, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel. By speaking to consumers’ need for feel-good food, you might be surprised to see higher-end products flying off the shelf. Now could be a great time to play up the luxury end of your snacking selection to set your tills ringing.

19. Truffle-flavoured snacks

It’s safe to say that truffle has quickly become a stand-out flavour for many Brits. Even Marmite launched a Marmite Truffle product last year. Although truffles can be almost as divisive as the famously love-or-hate-it spread, their savoury flavour is associated as closely with luxury as caviar. While the average consumer might not be ready to buy a whole truffle to shave into their midweek risotto, they’ll find it difficult to resist the allure of a truffle-spiked snack.

Three products to stock
TruffleHunter Black Truffle Crisps - The finest English potatoes with sumptuous black truffle flavour. It’s the ultimate luxury snack for truffle lovers.
• Fox Italian Truffle Potato Crisps - A luxury snack and a perfect aperitivo. Hand-cooked vintage potatoes crips flavoured with black truffle and sea salt.
Olives Et Al Truffle Salted - Hand-roasted in a hot air kiln, then seasoned and tumbled with real truffle and salt.

20. Quality cheese snacks

Snacks that utilise quality ingredients, like Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) cheeses or artisan British varieties, have an added touch of grandeur about them. After all, a blandly cheese-flavoured savoury snack is no match to one made with divine Parmigiano Reggiano or rich Stilton. Mouth watering already? Time to dive in!

21. Cheeseboard partners

Snacks are no longer relegated to a small pick-me-up between meals; they now offer occasions in their own right. “The movement towards premium yet affordable snacks continues to grow as consumers look for little luxuries and creative gifting options,” said Flora Williams, innovation insight manager at Belazu.

Lean into the desire to graze with cheeseboards and Mediterranean-style mezze. You likely already have the cheese and charcuterie, but stocking perfectly snackable pairings like crackers and biscuits can transform a simple snack time into an event that’s not to be missed.

Three products to stock
Seggiano Organic Rosate di Bitetto Olives - Round with a rosy hue, these olives are full of flavour and have delicate, crisp flesh that comes away easily from the stone.
Peter’s Yard Oregano & Olive Oil Sourdough Cracker - Delicious sourdough crackers made with carefully selected, natural ingredients and no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.
Olina’s Bakehouse Seeded Snackers Balsamic Vinegar and Caramelised Onion - Bite-sized, oven-baked, seeded crackers bursting with the goodness of whole seeds and packed full of delicious flavours you can see.

What is the future of snacking?

According to industry insiders Heather Morris of SH Foodie, and Simon Morris, director of Beat Bites there are some key areas to focus on:
1. Personalised snacking: Catering to individual preferences, dietary needs and health goals. “Consumers would like to have the ability to choose from a wide range of flavours, ingredients and portion sizes, ensuring a snack that perfectly suits their individual tastes and nutritional needs,” says Heather.
2. Health and wellness: Mintel recently reported, says Simon, that more than half of adults claim to be taking steps to reduce their sugar content. He sees functional snacks offering specific health benefits such as those incorporating probiotics, gaining in popularity.
3. Plant-based: “This trend will continue to extend to the snacking industry,” says Heather. “Crisps and jerky made from mushrooms are making headway.”
4. Sustainable packaging: “Environmental concerns are driving the shift towards sustainable packaging solutions in the food industry, and snacking is no exception,” says Heather. “There are already moves to prioritise eco-friendly materials such as compostable or biodegradable packaging.
5. Alternative ingredients: According to the duo retailers should be on the lookout for snacks featuring Asian spices, bold tastes of Latin America, and aromatic herbs of the Mediterranean.

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