The New Normal for Snacks

Meet the new American grocery shoppers.

After more than a year of extreme fear and stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these consumers are prioritizing health and safety more than ever before.

At the grocery store, whether they’re shopping on their mobile phones or cruising the center store in person, they’re looking for better-for-you nourishment by scanning labels, zeroing in on unfamiliar ingredients, skipping items loaded with sodium, sugar and fat (which they may have overindulged in during the pandemic), and looking for as many health benefits as possible in every snack or meal.

Health and wellness were surging trends in retail and consumer packaged goods before the pandemic, but for the shopper, the buzzwords have gone from “trendy” to “must have” when it comes to food, and especially sweet or savory snacks. “Better for you” is now mainstream as the post-pandemic consumer redefines what it means to lead a happier, healthier and more productive lifestyle during chaotic, unbalanced times.

“Coming out of the pandemic, I think we’ve all realized there really is nothing more important than our health,” affirms Mark Mastern, CEO of Joolies, a grower of organic California Medjool dates in Southern California’s Coachella Valley. “Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is top of mind for consumers, yet at the same time, there are so many stresses people are facing as we continue to face unknowns and transition back to ‘normal’ times.”

Joolies is perfectly positioned to capture the post-pandemic shopper looking for better-for-you snack solutions. Consumers are snacking more than ever before, and they expect their snacks to offer nutrition, portability and wellness. Joolies’ Medjool dates are a good example of a snack that offers consumers a healthy option, a sugar swap and a superfruit ingredient while at the same time satisfying cravings for comfort food, according to Mastern. Medjool dates are known to be high in antioxidants, and a good source of fiber and potassium.

Many retailers and suppliers looking to leverage the opportunity in healthy snacks used to hang their hats on gluten-free and organic labels, and left the “superfood” products to natural food stores. However, more shoppers than ever, spanning a wide range of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, are looking for low-sugar chocolate bars, sour cream and onion protein puffs, and ketogenic malted milk balls. To capitalize on these post-pandemic health and wellness movements and reach the right customers, retailers and manufacturers should recalibrate their offerings and get in front of these trends now.

“In both candy and snacks, I think you’ll see solid growth after the pandemic,” says John Downs, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based National Confectioners Association. “I think, given lifestyle preferences in this country, and given our demographics, and as we come out of the pandemic, these two categories will continue to be solid.”