Healthy Snack Trends: Bean Chips, Bars, Protein, Seaweed, and More

Published on: 
Nutritional Outlook, Volume 19, Issue 1

From bean chips to “bites,” here are some of the latest trends in healthy snacks.

Food manufacturers are revamping snack foods with healthier ingredients and intriguing culinary trends. As a follow-up to our November 2015 Nutritional Outlook column on the snacks market, here are some notable newcomers freshening up the snacking category.

Chip Trends
Bean chips are popular, including launches like General Mills’ Pinto Bean and Black Bean Multigrain Bean Chips, part of its Food Should Taste Good brand. These chips also feature flax, sesame, and sunflower seeds, as well as quinoa. The Good Bean brand also launched tortilla-shaped Bean Chips with Sweet Potato & Quinoa, incorporating chickpeas, navy beans, red lentils, and pea protein.

Ancient grains like quinoa are increasingly popular, creating a nutritious-and often gluten-free-option. Joining the trendy popped-snacks category, KIND Healthy Snacks’ latest Popped Salted Caramel bar features six grains: amaranth, buckwheat, millet, oats, quinoa, and sorghum. The company markets the bar as delivering “the popcorn taste you love.” The brand hits on another trend, too, with its other popped-bar flavor, Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Salted Caramel.

Blends and crossovers are more common, such as a mix of popcorn and corn chips in Popcorn Indiana’s Fit Popcorn Chips; Toufayan’s Gluten-Free Scoop-able Pita Chips, snack chips based on pita bread; or Flamous Brands’ Falafel Chips, designed to accompany hummus dips.

Other interesting ingredients include seaweed, such as in the Chomperz Crunchy Seaweed Chips range from SeaSnax and the Oceans Halo snacks range from New Frontier Foods. Veggies highlight several other snacks, such as Pirate’s Booty’s new Carrot Snacks baked puffs made with carrots, corn, and sea salt, or the new Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Chips range. Calbee’s Snapea Crisps are made from 70% green peas and are baked, not fried.

Bar None
Cereal and granola bars are growing strong with very high levels of new product activity in recent years. According to Innova Market Insights data, the number of global cereal bar launches doubled between 2010 and 2015 and continues double-digit growth. The United States dominates the market overall and tends to lead in product development in a relatively mature and complex market. The U.S. market includes a wide range of products: granola or muesli bars, energy and performance bars, nutrition bars, and breakfast bars.

Bars answer a lot of consumer concerns. First and foremost, the “healthy” halo surrounding bars continues (despite concerns over just how healthy some of the products actually are). More than 80% of the cereal bar launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in the 12 months ending June 2015 had a health positioning of some kind-and as much as 90% in the United States. Clean-label concerns are also key, with over 50% of U.S. cereal bar launches positioned on a natural, additive-free/preservative-free, and/or organic platform.

Strong interest in “free from” options has served the gluten-free trend well; in fact, in the United States, gluten-free marketing has moved ahead of natural, additive-free/preservative-free, and organic marketing. Gluten-free claims are now used on over 60% of launches in the United States (compared to the smaller 37% of launches globally).

Protein is rising strongly, with “high in” and “source of protein” claims used on 22% of global cereal bar launches and up to 40% in the United States. The performance bar market, where products traditionally include protein, is also strong, with one-fifth of U.S. launches featuring a sports/recovery or energy/alertness positioning.

The most notable development in protein bars is their move from a specialized product for endurance and performance athletes to the mainstream, where consumers look to potential benefits of satiety, weight management, improved muscle mass, and increased energy. U.S. additions in 2015 include Campbell’s Soup’s V8 Protein bar, leveraging the well-known vegetable juice brand and adding soy protein as well as sweet potato and carrot. The bars are offered in three flavors: Chocolate Peanut Butter, Oatmeal Raisin, and Chocolate Pomegranate with Cranberries.

Other health claims featuring strongly in the U.S. cereal bars market include fiber claims (“high in” or “source of fiber”), used on 33% of U.S. launches and over 40% if whole-grain claims are included. “Low” and “light” claims are also popular, used on over 17% of launches, particularly relating to reduced sugar content, with nearly 12% of launches featuring a “no added sugar,” “low sugar,” or “sugar free” positioning.

“Bites” are another trend, embraced by some of the biggest names in the market. Balance Bar launched Balance Bites in 2015-crunchy snack bites sold in single-serve pouches. In 2015, the Gluten Free Bar brand launched Gluten Free Bites, bite-sized versions of the original nut, protein, and dried fruit bar.

In the functional category, launches include GoMacro’s Thrive Bar line targeting neurological, digestive, and cardiovascular health. Mars extended its CocoaVia cocoa flavanols brand with the launch of three Goodnessknows bars, each delivering 100 mg of naturally occurring cocoa flavanols claimed to support the healthy flow of nutrients and oxygen. The bars are ready-cut into four snack squares, each less than 40 calories.

Clean Label
Finally, clean-label trends such as minimal processing and limited ingredients are apparent in recent launches, such as Boulder Canyon’s Coconut Oil Sea Salt Crisps, made with just three ingredients-potatoes, coconut oil, and sea salt-and marketed as natural, gluten-free, Kosher, non-GMO, and free of trans-fat, MSG, and cholesterol. Navitas Naturals also launched organic, gluten-free, non-GMO Coconut Chips made by toasting coconut slices and offered in both sweet and savory flavors.


Also read:

Healthy Finds a Home in Snacks

Drink Pioneers: The Next Generation (Slideshow)

8 New Functional Food Innovations


Innova Market Insights is your source for new-product data. The Innova Database ( is the product of choice for the whole product-development team, offering excellent product pictures, search possibilities, and analysis. See what food manufacturers are doing around the world: track trends, competitors, ingredients, and flavors. In today’s fast-moving environment, this is a resource you cannot afford to be without.