Getting Back to Healthier Snacking  

Getting Back to Healthier Snacking  

By Angela Altass

 Summer weather encourages on-the-go activity and this year there is a switch in attitude towards snacking.

“The pandemic drove many of us back to what made us feel comfortable and gave us some solace from the challenges of the pandemic, which meant that we often chose things that were more decadent over things that were healthy,” says Marshall Rader, co-founder and CEO, The Gluten Free Bar (The GFB). “As the timeline of the pandemic has evolved, we, as consumers, have started to go back to focusing on better for you and longer term choices, which means the demand for better-for-you snacks at all retail channels will continue to grow.”

Customers like to have snacking options, notes Rader.

“The core items of chips, candy, and gum will always be critical, but many consumers are also looking for better for you choices,” says Rader. “I think having a reasonable variety of better for you items will help grow overall sales.”

Better for you snacking is on the rise, says Wade Crouch, head of marketing, Riverside Natural Foods Ltd.

“People are getting back to eating more snacks on the go,” notes Crouch. “What we’ve found through our research is that the number one driver of preference and purchase is taste. People want great tasting products that deliver on any number of healthy attributes. It could be low sugar, organic, or free from allergens, depending on the individual.”

People want healthier snacks that do not compromise on taste, says Elysia Vandenhurk, co-founder and chief brand and innovation officer, Three Farmer Foods Inc.

“Functionality-wise the top attributes we see are protein and fibre,” says Vandenhurk. “People don’t want the sugar spike that just leaves them tired an hour later anymore. They don’t want to snack on something and be hungry again 30 minutes later. They want protein, fibre, energy, low sugar, and low fat. Consumers are also looking to know where their products are made and where they come from.”

With keen consumer interest in plant-based foods, Dan Reed, director of marketing, Chicago Vegan Foods suggests retailers dedicate a space for plant-based snacks.



As children have returned to in-classroom learning during the school months and camping or other adventures during the summer, the challenge of packing lunches has also resurfaced. Below are some new product suggestions that could entice parents into your store.


  • GFB Bites: Great taste combined with protein. Each single serving pack has 110 calories, four to five grams of plant-based protein and five grams of sugar, is non-GMO verified, gluten-free, and soy-free.
  • MadeGood Star Puffed Crackers: Flavours: Cheddar, Sea Salt, Pizza. Nut-free, allergen friendly, organic, contains nutrients from vegetables, non-GMO, gluten-free and vegan.
  • MadeGood Cookies: New flavours: Chocolate Chip, Vanilla, Double Chocolate, and Sweet Cinnamon. Nut-free, allergen friendly, organic, contains nutrients from vegetables, non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan, recyclable bag.



  • Three Farmer Foods Roasted Fava Beans: New flavours: Dill Pickle and Jalapeno Lime. Dry roasted with plant protein and fibre.
  • Dandies Marshmallows: New Flavour: Maple. Plant-based, vegan, certified kosher, non-GMO project verified, and free of many common allergens. No artificial flavours or colours, no corn syrup, no gelatin, and no gluten.
  • McSweeney’s ZERO Sugar Beef Jerky: New flavour: Smokin’ Jalapeno. Gluten-free and keto friendly.
  • McSweeney’s All Beef Pep ‘N Ched 90g: A combination of an all-beef pepperoni stick with a real cheddar cheese stick made from Canadian milk. Gluten-free and keto friendly.
  • Spark Bites: New flavours: Chocolate Chip, Turmeric. Non-GMO project verified, gluten-free, vegan friendly.

“According to Statista, sales of plant-based sweet and savoury snacks in North America were over $263 million in 2020 and are expected to hit $477.5 million by 2026,” states Reed.

Consumers are looking for zero sugar snacks, says Kylie Landry, brand manager, Direct Plus Food Group.

“Many consumers looking for healthy snacks are demanding low sugar or zero sugar options.” Says Landry. “Many Canadians would like to support local brands. Retailers should give their customers a choice to buy local, Canadian-made products.”

People are looking for healthy snacking options, says Warren Brown, founder, Spark Bites.

“We have people coming to us asking for functional foods that aid gut health,” says Brown. “It seems the impact of the pandemic has focused individuals to proactively treat their health seriously. People want products that have healthy looking and sounding ingredients. They want functionality in their foods. They want clean label ingredients, organic or non-GMO or anything that’s easily pronounceable. Indulgence will always have a major role for snacking but healthier options that aid or contribute to making the consumer’s day better, the planet better, or the community better align with the new value set of the post-COVID consumer.”

People are becoming more educated and are demanding transparency and quality, says Krista Anderson, founder, ESSTAR.

“A better for you semi-healthy snack set is not the solution and gives the image that there is still not anything healthy in the store,” says Anderson, whose company can create Healthy On The Go display solutions for Canadian retailers in partnership with their distributors. “These items must be separated from the rest of the store and displayed either on an endcap or a small floor display that can be positioned in a high traffic area of the store with signage that showcases that these items are different than the rest of the products in the store.”

For many convenience stores, this is a new category of business, says Anderson.

“In my conversations with convenience retailers, many believe their customers will not buy healthy foods so they are afraid to take the risk and use valuable store space,” says Anderson. “This is somewhat true. Their current core customer is maybe not as concerned about buying healthy foods but there is a whole other target group of consumers who are being missed. There is a big opportunity to increase incremental sales.”

Thomas Sheehan, owner of four Enniskillen General Stores in Ontario, says the percentage of customers coming into his stores asking for healthier snacking options is growing.

“We sell a lot of ice cream and people are looking for alternatives, such as dairy-free and gluten-free,” says Sheehan. “We are definitely adding more healthier options for other products too, such as protein bars, low sodium snacks and zero sugar drinks.”

Healthy still needs to be delicious, says Attila Szanyi, founder and president of Popbox Market in Toronto, Ontario.

“I’ve always thought of our store as a premium food and snack store,” says Szanyi. “As we’ve evolved over the years and we select items for our store, it’s always what is the best, most exciting version in a category. Healthy is an underlying quality but we try to balance it out and do not compromise on taste. We have a lot of snacks but we have good versions of them.”


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