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How Important is it to Stock Healthier Snacking?

January is traditionally the time for ditching the fat, sugar and beer and replacing them with carrots, lettuce and water. Some people take to this more enthusiastically than others, but there’s no doubt that January is the right time to beef up your healthier snacking range.

Matt Stanton - Head of Insight

4 Minutes

/ 18th January 2023
  • Category Insight
  • Sales & Distribution

Healthier eating is high on the agenda in the UK. Trends towards healthier eating habits have emerged over the last few years, and many shoppers are switching from traditional confectionery, biscuits and crisps to healthier alternatives. Healthy eating took a hit during the pandemic, with many people turning to indulgent foods during lockdown, but there has been a resurgence since then.

A massive 89% of shoppers in the UK say they are trying to improve their diet.1

However, as the cost-of-living crisis squeezes shoppers’ budgets, many are looking to save money where they can, and shoppers have a perception that ‘healthier’ usually means ‘more expensive’. This isn’t always true, of course (compare the price of a banana with that of a luxury chocolate brownie) but it’s a barrier that retailers need to be aware of.

So what is a ‘healthier snack’? There is no formal definition of ‘healthy’ that applies across all foods and drinks. The HFSS definition is a start, but different shoppers are looking for different things when choosing a healthier snack, so it’s important to stock a wide range of products. The common theme is ‘better for you than the usual choice’. Categories that usually fall under the heading of ‘healthier’ include:

  • dried fruits, nuts and seeds (DFNS)

  • cereal bars (including breakfast bars)

  • protein bars

  • protein snacks (e.g. the healthier end of the flapjack category)

  • dried meat snacks (such as jerky or biltong)

There are many more as well, depending on how far you stretch the definition.

Of these categories, the biggest by far is DFNS. That’s not surprising because it includes a wide range of different products – cashews, almonds, walnuts, raisins, sultanas… and many more. Many of these can be thought of as ‘ingredients’ rather than snacks, and the market data usually distinguishes between them by way of pack size alone, but they can clearly be both. Whitworths is the leading brand in the UK.

Protein bars are important too. These are not just for avid gym-goers – 65% of protein bar shoppers buy the product as a snack or a treat, and 40% of UK adults say they eat protein bars at least once a week, helping push the category to £107m in the total UK market2. Grenade is the leading brand in the UK.

Protein Bars Are Important
65 %
of shoppers buy protein bars as a snack or treat
40 %
of adults eat protein bars at least once a week
£ 107 M
is how much the protein bar category is worth

Rambling on about all the different categories would not make for interesting reading, especially as there are so many categories that could be considered as ‘healthy’. So… the key advice you need to know is:

  1. Healthier options are essential for your product range. Different shoppers have different definitions, so you need a range of products.

  2. Merchandise products according to the shopper mission. If it’s a snack, put it with the other snacks, e.g. put protein bars next to traditional confectionery.

  3. Remember that shoppers define ‘healthy’ as a comparison vs. the less-healthy alternative. It might be tempting to make a ‘healthy’ section (and in larger stores it could be sensible to dual-site) but a shopper who’s on the hunt for a snack will see Mars bars and assume the other snacks are nearby.

  4. Remember that other product categories, such as fresh fruit, can be considered as on-the-go snacks. Don’t constrain yourself solely to things in packets.

  5. Grenade is the UK’s No 1 protein bar brand.

  6. Whitworths is the UK’s No 1 DFNS brand (although own-label is very strong, particularly in supermarkets).



1: Mintel COVID-19 and Food & Drink: A Year On – UK, May 2021

2: IRI Total Marketplace, UK, Total Protein Bars, 52w/e 2nd October 2022