Comfort foods reigned supreme in the early stages of the Covid pandemic. That’s why in 2022 we saw what Eric Viergutz, managing director at City National Bank, called a “refocus” back to “functional, beneficial type foods.”
“Whether that’d be super foods, rich in vitamins or probiotics—better-for-you snack options—I think snacking is going to be key again,” Viergutz told The Food Institute Podcast earlier this year.
Viergutz’s assessment was accurate, as several major brands have introduced new so-called “better-for-you” snack options in recent weeks. Mars, in particular, appears focused on bolstering its healthy snack portfolio moving into 2023.
Mars recently announced its acquisition of the better-for-you, whole-fruit snacking brand Trü Frü for an undisclosed amount. Trü Frü’s snacks are touted as a healthy indulgence made from real fruit dipped in premium chocolate.
Andrew Clarke, global president of Mars Snacking, called Trü Frü “a perfect complimentary fit for our health and wellness portfolio” in the press release.
FUNCTIONAL, YET DECADENT
After noting that functional snacks will continue to grow in popularity, Viergutz added that “protein-rich foods will still be very popular” in the latter half of 2022 and beyond. He was right again.
This month, Mars stepped boldly into the performance nutrition space by unveiling Snickers Hi Protein bars. According to Mars, the bars have all the usual Snickers ingredients—chocolate, caramel, and peanuts—but with an added 20 grams of protein.
“With the demand for delicious-tasting protein bars increasing, Snickers Hi Protein bars are guaranteed to be a hit whether you work out avidly, casually, or are looking for a delicious snack with more protein,” said Michelle Deignan, senior brand director at Mars Wrigley.
The Snickers Hi Protein bar is designed for consumers who want to add protein to their diet without sacrificing the craveable taste of a candy bar—a formula that illuminates the essential conundrum in the better-for-you snack category:
Where is the line between healthy and indulgent, or functional and decadent? Both of Mars’ new better-for-you offerings intend to walk it.
A NEW DICHOTOMY
“Look, we tend to talk about health and wellness as one thing, right?” said Nik Modi, managing director at RBC Capital Markets, on The Food Institute Podcast. “But it really is two different things.”
According to Modi, health still means what it always has—eating salads, drinking water, etc. Whereas “wellness has now been redefined since the pandemic” to describe “moments of indulgence, mental health, that break from all the craziness that’s going on in the day,” he said.
In that case, the desire to be healthy and to indulge can exist simultaneously. Better-for-you snacks capitalize on this dichotomy within today’s consumers.
“There was a survey done, and it [found] that the same percentage of consumers said, ‘life is too short to skip dessert,’ as [those who] said, ‘I’m looking to eat healthier,” explained Modi.
“It’s equal, right?” Modi said. “Life is too short to skip dessert, and I also want to be healthier. These two things can coexist at the same time.”