Functional Ingredients for Snacks


From nutritional bars to yogurt, food products with functional ingredients are in demand in the snack category

KerryDigest Fast Facts:
  • Digestive health, immune health and added protein are all areas of focus for people looking to take greater control over their health.
  • Functional ingredients in foods are a growing trend as consumers search for options outside of supplements.
  • As nutraceuticals, or foods with functional ingredients, become more popular, the snack category is an area of opportunity.
KerryDigest Full Scoop:

A growing number of consumers are taking a proactive approach to health and wellness, turning to food over medicine as a means to wellness. This trend has given rise to a new category, nutraceuticals, or foods and beverages with added functional ingredients. A recent consumer survey among U.S. adults found that 79% would prefer to consume probiotics in a food or beverage product rather than a pill or supplement, according to Survey Sampling International (SSI), and data shows there’s also increased interest in immune support and high-protein foods and drinks.

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This, and research in our new white paper “Proactive Health,” highlights the growing need for functional ingredients in a broad range of applications, including snacks, which are increasingly replacing meals as a source of taste and nutrition. Adding such functional ingredients to a new or already popular snack can help brands stand out in a crowded marketplace.

We recently researched the state of the market for three of the top functional ingredient categories, including the applications that hold the most appeal for consumers. The below information is designed for brands entering the functional food and beverage space. Use this guide to develop snacks with the functional benefits consumers want to meet their health goals that also maintain the taste experiences they crave.

Functional Ingredients for Digestive Health 

Digestive health is top of mind for many consumers: a recent GlobalData survey found it to be the fourth most desired health benefit among adults. Studies suggest certain strains of probiotics can deliver improved digestive health. With more consumers and brands experimenting with the ingredient, the global probiotics market is projected to grow to $64 billion by 2022 (7% CAGR) and functional foods and beverages is the largest segment, currently valued at $38 billion, according to MarketsandMarkets.

Application Opportunities: Consumers who would not typically purchase products such as yogurt, snacks and nutritional bars would do so if the product was fortified with a probiotic, according to a 2017 SSI consumer survey. To stand out, brands may want to incorporate the ingredient into traditional snacks like hummus, trail mix or crackers. There’s also room to introduce probiotics to candy, dips, spreads or breakfast bars. (Here are a few more probiotic product ideas.)

Probiotic Considerations: When shopping for a probiotic, researching which strains will deliver the desired result is key. Another important but often overlooked consideration is how processing will affect functionality. For example, products that undergo extreme heat or manufacturing processes could benefit from a more resilient probiotic ingredient.


Functional Ingredients for Health and Immunity 

The aforementioned Global Data survey found immune health was the second most desired benefit among consumers. In addition to avoiding run-of-the-mill illness, a recent Kerry survey found that people see increased immune health as a way to improve productivity, mood, mental clarity, stress and energy. While immunity is valued by a wide range of consumers, it is especially critical for families with children, athletes, older adults and anyone experiencing stress.

Application Opportunities: Granola bars, nutritional bars, yogurt and other snacks are all products that already appeal to the target consumers for immunity strengthening ingredients. Because of the large market for such immune-enhancing foods, brands have the opportunity to formulate products that support immune health for consumers of all ages, from children to older adults looking to stay healthy as they age.

Immune Strengthener Considerations: The quality, type and amount of functional ingredients is one main consideration when comparing ingredients. Also, not all immunity boosters can be used across applications. For instance, some work better in food products while others are designed for use in beverages, so it’s important to find an immune strengthening ingredient that meets your application needs, such as being dispersible in foods or water soluble in beverages.

Functional Ingredients for Weight Management 

According to Mintel, more than 20% of all consumers look for products with added nutrition, including added protein. High protein foods and beverages may also appeal to athletes and people trying to lose weight such as through the ketogenic diet, which calls for consuming minimal carbohydrates and large amounts of fat, protein and fiber. Alternative protein sources such as plant proteins are also in demand as consumers become even more knowledgeable about nutrition.

Application Opportunities: High protein snacks have huge potential in North America if brands can successfully convey the health benefits of eating protein throughout the day rather than suggesting specific occasions. One way to grab hold of the high protein trend in the snack market is adding protein to nutritional bars, although the ingredient can now be seen in everything from popcorn to muffins.


Protein Considerations: Both dairy and plant-based protein sources are in demand among consumers; choosing between them should take into account application, manufacturing processes, desired protein levels and consumer preferences. Because added proteins often come with challenges such as off-notes and gritty texture, it’s important to research proteins that also address texture and taste concerns.

Kerry has a robust portfolio of functional ingredients that can be utilized in snack applications. For more information on the functional ingredient market, read our new Proactive Health white paper. To learn more about partnering with us to add functionality to your savory snacks, contact Kerry.

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