To paraphrase an old Bagel Bites old commercial, Snacking in the morning! Snacking in the evening! Snacking at super time! When snacking brings you comfort, you can eat snacks at any time!”

It’s been a long couple years for many of us, and it turns out snacks have been a source of comfort during the pandemic, according to a new report from FONA, “What’s new in Snacking?” And that’s helped spur growth in the snacking sector.

“Snacking, which saw growth during the pandemic, doesn’t show any signs of slowing down,”  FONA explained. “Opportunities for snacking abound, from mid-morning pick-me-ups to post-workout protein boosts and evening indulgences — there’s a snack to suit every kind of craving,” FONA explained.

There are three main snacking occasions according to FONA:

  1. Small meals: Consumers reach for yogurt or protein shakes when they need a light, quick meal.
  1. Fulfilling a need: From post-workout protein bars to energy bars when they’re feeling low, people turn to snacks to fulfill a need.
  1. Indulgence: Ice cream, cookies and other sweets are what snackers seek out when they want to indulge.

But what kinds of snacks are consumers reaching for?

“The category reflects many of the trends popping up in other segments, including bold, unusual or international flavors, as well as an increasing interest in plant-based offerings,” FONA said. “Consumers are looking for more from their snacks, whether that means an energy boost or an indulgent break from the everyday.”

Flavor is still the most important factor for consumers when choosing a snack. FONA shared some of the top snack flavors in North America over the last three years, which include:

Top 10 Snack Flavors:

  1. Salt (Sea)/Fleur de Sel
  2. Roasted/Toasted & Salt/Salted
  3. Cheese (Cheddar)
  4. Chocolate
  5. Roasted/Toasted
  6. Salt/Salted
  7. Peanut Butter
  8. Beef
  9. Barbecue/BBQ/Barbacoa
  10. Cheese (White Cheddar)

Beyond those flavors, snacks present a unique opportunity for food manufacturers when it comes to more experimental flavors since they tend to be consumed in smaller quantities.

“Bold, creative flavor profiles, like smoky-sweet or fruity-spicy, are a great way to try out new ingredients and combinations,” FONA Said. “Extruded snacks like “puffs” are perfect for experimenting with flavors and healthy ingredients. Because the ingredients are thoroughly combined prior to the extrusion process, a wide variety of ingredients can be incorporated.”

The list of trending flavors includes a number of salt-based trends. While many consumers are looking to reduce salt and/or sodium intake, 94 percent of U.S. households eat salty snacks.

Himalayan sea salt is a popular ingredient due to its reduced sodium levels. And potassium chloride, often used to replace sodium in other products, is underutilized in salty snacks, FONA said.

FONA also suggested manufacturers consider salicomia or “sea asparagus,” which contains high amounts of minerals and fiber, making it a healthier replacement for salt.

For the full report, including more snack insights and examples of trending products, visit FONA’s website.