What does the future of healthy snacks and drinks look like?

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The healthy market for anything right now is on the rise. Consumers, particularly younger generations, want to lead healthier lives for a variety of reasons ranging from biological to environmental. In addition to this, technology and science is rapidly improving which means companies are constantly innovating and provider healthier products for consumers. On both the demand and supply side, these upwards trends are only going to accelerate over the coming years which makes this industry very exciting. As we combine health and technology in the near future the pace of innovation will increase exponentially. In this article I will lay out where I think the healthy snacks and drinks market is heading but to do that we need to look at the current trends.

Current Trends in the Healthy Snack and Drink Market

The healthy snack and drink markets have grown rapidly over the last decade and this growth has accelerated in the last couple of years. This has been driven by greater demand for vegan, low sugar, high protein, gut friendly and dairy-free foods and drinks.

Vegan

The Vegan market has exploded over the last few years. The market size reached $15 billion in 2020 as people switch out meat and dairy products for health and environmental reasons. 2020 was a slower growth year for the market due to to economic slowdown however growth is expected to pick up again and will reach $20 billion by 2023 according a report by the business research company. One important factor in this market is the rise of vegan meat alternatives led by Beyond Meat which I expect to only get bigger in the coming years.

Low Sugar

Sugar now occupies the place of a dietary demon and for good reason due the toxic affect it has on our bodies. Especially sugar in synthetic forms like high fructose corn syrup which spikes insulin levels incredibly when it is consumed. Consumers and brands are now aware of this which has meant that products nowadays contain less and less added sugar and in better cases none. Low sugar is not a trend but rather something that is here to stay. Brands will keep innovating and create products that have little sugar in. A common ingredient used right now to replace sugar are dates, which are very sweet with natural sugar and also contain a lot of other benefits. Many believe that low sugar means tasteless but brands are showing this is not true.

Gut-Friendly

Driven by the new science on probiotics and the importance of your gut to your health, gut-friendly foods and drinks have been rapidly on the rise. Examples include kombucha which according to marketsandmarkets has a global market value of close to $2 billion in 2020. Other examples of this include Kefir which is a fermented milk originally from Eastern Europe which as become very popular over the last few years as a drink or as a yoghurt. We are also seeing sauerkraut and kimchi snacks become popular which also contain these beneficial microbes.

High Protein

We have seen the rise of high protein snacks over the last few years such as with bars like Grenade and all types of food made by MyProtein. Especially for younger generations exercise has become a key component of their lives. Therefore, foods and snacks that can supplement their lifestyles have become popular. In addition, high protein snacks are satiating therefore many use high protein snacks as meal replacements. The growth in this market is starting to slow. Given that high protein snacks normally come with other unhealthy ingredients I believe this market will slow further in the coming years. Brands in this space need to focus on making their products healthy rather than just adding protein.

Keto, Paleo and low FODMAP diets

Diets are always coming in and out of fashion. The most popular ones in the last few years have been the ketogenic, paleo and low FODMAP diets. These diets are low in sugars and carbs and use only natural and wholesome ingredients. Many brands have therefore created products to comply with these rules. All these products fall in line with the other trends in the market currently as they are low in sugar, high in protein, vegan and gut-friendly. Like all diets these probably will fade as new science comes out however they have become extremely popular therefore perhaps they point towards a trend of healthier eating amongst consumers.

The Next Decade

I think the next decade will follow the rule ‘snack with benefits.’ Consumers in all industries now are demanding more than just a product but an experience where they gain even more benefits.

Healthy Snacks and Drinks with Benefits

One of these benefits is health. We are already seeing the rise of healthy snacks and drinks as consumers strive to lead healthier lives. With this has come greater innovation in healthy products whether in how they make it or the ingredients inside. One ingredient which has been trending over the last couple of years and looks like to continue in the coming years is CBD.

CBD is a non-psychoactive chemical compound extracted from the hemp plant that has potential powerful benefits such as calming anxiety and pain relief. The growth in the edible CBD market has been immense over the past few years, particularly in America. In a report by Brightfield the global market is estimated at $2.7 billion by 2023. Consumers want innovative products that are good for them and CBD products fits this description perfectly. Other products that also fit this description are ones containing nootropics (brain enhancing substances). These have started to become popular, particularly in drinks such as FourSigmatic Coffee to help high performers work more efficiently. I see this becoming more mainstream in the coming years as the nootropics market grows close to $5 billion by 2025.

The ‘Big Boys’ Flock to Health

The trend is clear: consumers are looking for healthier products, especially the younger generations. By 2025 the the global snack market is expected to reach $700 billion and the healthy snack market is expected to account for $32 billion of that. However, it is growing at the fastest rate than any other segment of the market. Big brands like Nestle, Mondelez and PepsiCo have already dipped their toes into the market however expect them to invest heavily in the next decade. These brands have the capabilities to develop products very quickly when market demand changes. I expect the large brands to be a key player in this space. However, I believe that the brands whose values lie in health and nutrition will win as they will develop the best products and provide the best experience for customers.

Technology

There is no doubt that technology will shape the healthy snack and drink market over the next decade. I think the most exciting of all of this will be personalisation. As the revolution in wearable technology, biotechnology and nanotechnology quickens in the next decade, we will all have access to an incredible amount of information regarding our bodies. This means we will know what foods suit our bodies and which don’t. We will therefore be able to personalise our snacks and drinks to suit our bodies. This gives rise to huge opportunities for services that enable this and I think this is where health and food is heading.

For brands themselves data will become vital. They will be able to use that data combined with technologies like AI and IoT to be able to understand trends far quicker and quickly manufacture the products. I would therefore expect to see a lot of products come and go. I think products are unlikely to stay for that long as companies constantly make improvements to suit consumers.

Finally, expect companies to use technology to find solutions to the ongoing climate crisis. Lab-made meat is already a reality, it just hasn’t become commercially viable yet so expect that to be popular soon as the costs keep falling. I expect and hope that companies will use technology, not to make short-term profits, but to actually solve the environmental and heath problems the industry jhas created over the past 30 years.

Conclusion

The healthy snacks and drinks industry is very exciting right now as there is massive innovation due to the changing demands of customers and the benefits of technology. The biggest driver of this industry is consumer preferences which has shifted in the last decade, particularly amongst younger generations, towards healthier lifestyles. On top of this, concerns about the environment has pushed people away from processed meats and to plant based alternatives. Expect trends to be constantly changing but the overall preference towards healthier living will only continue and get stronger. Now that technology can help brands to easily satisfy this need, innovation will be rampant over the next decade which will be great for us as consumers.

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