Three quarters of consumers (76%) have said the they plan to eat and drink more healthily as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the snacking channel offering opportunities for retailers and manufacturers, new data from FMCG Gurus has shown.
The research firm found that consumers have demonstrated contradictory behaviours over the past 12 months, with 43% saying that they are turning to comfort food more frequently, and 37% responding that they are more conscious about their weight.
'Ultimately consumers will want products that help bridge these two need states in a compromise-free way, driving demand for snack products that are deemed to be guilt-free and conveniently nutritious,' said FMCG Gurus.
It said that as life returns to normal, and consumers eat and drink out-of-home more frequently, established trends such as catering to time-poor consumers will return – albeit with added demand for healthier options in this category.
'Given that the out-of-home channel is something that is already associated with providing a barrier to healthy living, there will be more importance than ever before on the out-of-home channel providing snacks that offer a genuine health boost,' said FMCG Gurus.
'This will drive demand for snack products that are positioned around having functional ingredient and benefit claims, and also containing only natural and nutritious ingredients, and also being free from dietary evils.'
A separate study last year by FMCG Gurus found that more consumers were reaching for fruit and vegetables when seeking a healthy snack.
Sports nutrition is also likely to see a boost within the snacking category – in 2019, prior to the pandemic, FMCG Gurus research found that over the previous 12 months, more than half (51%) of consumers said that they had switched from traditional snacks such as chocolate and confectionery to high protein/low sugar alternatives instead.
When asked why they had made the switch, the two most popular answers were for 'general health and wellness purposes' (47%) and 'to boost energy levels' (45%).
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with 75% planning to improve their overall health and wellness and 78% associating protein with boosting their immune health, this is set to be an increasingly lucrative market, says FMCG Gurus.
'As consumers seek out better-for-you solutions for on-the-go, they will be more conscious about the taste and texture of such products as opposed to the volume, source, or quality of protein,' it noted. 'Additionally, in a recessionary environment, it will also be crucial that these products are deemed affordable.'