As we edge closer to business as usual, the ‘new normal’ is impacting the snacking and healthy lunch category. From functional snacks to traditional reinventions, Sharna Waid looks into the key players meeting that sweet spot of nutrition and indulgence, whilst also answering to environmental concerns

The healthy lunch and snack category continues to evolve. And with our daily lives having yet another overhaul – caused by hybrid working and an emphasis on the importance of wellness – more brands are delivering twists on traditional snacks with healthier inclusions. Not surprisingly organic, natural and free-from continue to drive this category. 

According to Mintel’s 2021 UK Consumer Snacking Market report, ‘being rich in particular nutrients holds potential for snacks to keep their place on the menu, as 44% of eaters think that snacks are a good way to add nutrients to your diet’. But it’s important to note that these consumers still value the notion of indulgence – and as research around the pandemic found out, people are eating comfort food to enhance their health, as well as their mood. This prompts the question: is it possible to meet health with indulgence?

During a webinar titled Let’s talk healthy snacks the site’s editor Gill Hyslop said: “Recent health trends mean meeting nutritional needs, adapting to myriad of today’s lifestyle choices, providing functional benefits, answering environmental concerns, enabling consumers to feel inclusive through transparency and clean labels, and all the while still providing pleasure and indulgence.”

There’s great opportunity for the natural and organic industry to meet this demand with new and interesting flavour combinations and health-boosting ingredients which aim to get the balance just right. Also, with the Government’s latest ban on promoting HFSS products, there’s even more opportunity for brands waving the reduced sugar, salt, fat or calorie flag to command the interest of health-conscious lunch-goers. 

Reinventing the wheel
Recent product developments have seen brands cleverly reinvent traditional snacks; we’ve seen tortilla chips made with healthy inclusions like kale, spinach or blue maize, and crisps and puffs made with veggies, peas, lentils, chia and flax seeds. David Walsh, VP of membership and communication at SNAC, comments: “People want to snack on something that they are used to, but something that gives them an extra health benefit, which is why snacks with added vitamins are on the up. Some consumers are relying on these products to give them their health punch.” 

For these people, functional foods like probiotic yoghurts and health bars are the obvious choice, but there are some other contenders reinventing the classics. Brands like Krumbled Foods have created Lemon Coconut Beauty Bites with added collagen – and with the CBD trend thriving in the health space, it’s no surprise to see CBD becoming increasingly present in food-to-go products such as chocolate and cookies. 

“44% of eaters think that snacks are a good way to add nutrients to your diet”

Alternatively, making old classic snacks more inclusive has been a good way to appeal to health-conscious consumers; an example is Crave’s Vegan Smokey Bacon & Pickled Onion Monster Feet Snacks and Smokey Flavoured Streakers. Both are made with maize and are free of gluten, corn, milk, eggs and lactose, as well as being suitable for vegans. According to Crave, they taste as good as or better than their mainstream equivalents. 

Gut health and immunity
Easy lunches such as soups with added vitamins, or chocolate/breakfast bars made with probiotics, are on the up – especially as more research is showing an intrinsic link between the gut and mind. 

Walsh comments: “Coming out of COVID there has been a real focus on holistic health and holistic snacking. Both from mental health – we’re talking about snacking filling that need for satisfaction, pleasure and entertainment – but also things for immune health and new trending areas like gut health and brain health and added functionality for snacks.”

The obvious contenders are protein bars. Brands like the Gut Stuff have created high-fibre snack bars and Planet Organic’s Biolive Crunch Bars deliver a functional dose of gut-friendly probiotics. More recently, we’ve seen Boundless come to market with Activated Chips to aid digestion by altering the way the seed is processed. 

Kefir and kombucha remain firm favourites for gut-boosting beverages, but brands like Olipop are introducing fruity soft drinks made to taste like the ‘soda we grew up with’, with added prebiotics offering microbiome and digestive support.   

BE 100% wants to help ‘fulfil your nutrients gap, whilst being naturally nutrient-dense and delicious’. The characteristics common to its products are: no added sugars or sugar alcohols; no processed ingredients; high in fibre, protein, micronutrients, antioxidants, bioactive compounds, healthy fats and vitamin E; and low in glycaemic load. 

Monica Martini, the brand’s founder, says: “A lunch trend I am aware of is people wanting gut and mental health support foods. Our nutrition bars packed with walnuts, sprouted flaxseeds etcetera, and sweetened with prebiotic yacon syrup are right there – [they] boost gut health and support normal cognition. We are just about to launch our Broccoli Sprout chocolate (it got rave reviews at NOPEX) and a brain and gut-boosting Snacking Granola Bark.”

Jumping (or staying) on the protein train
Protein remains another important part of the market. High-protein snacking has grown in popularity in order to boost energy and keep us fuller for longer. Subsequently, we’ve seen an influx of high-protein snacks dominating the market, including such indulgent treats as Vow Nutrition’s Protein Clusters, Muscle Moose’s Big Protein Flapjack, Nutry Nuts Peanut Butter Cups and MuscleFood’s Chocolate Fudge Cookie. On the savoury side, Airsnax has created new versions of puffed crisps using chickpeas (available in Salted, Black Pepper, Sweet Chilli and Salt & Vinegar), while HIPPEAS has turned the same high-protein ingredient into Chickpea Tortilla Chips – check out the Cheesy Nacho Vibes flavour.  

Likewise, dried fruits or packaged fruit and veg remain a popular choice for lunchers looking for a natural vitamin or protein boost. Product highlights include Kooky’s range of sustainably sourced, freeze-fried fruits which feature interesting options like Dragonfruit and Mangosteen; and Jacked, which has infused jackfruit with lemon and lime juice to create a sweet and sour, high-protein, carbon-negative snack. 

Brands on a mission
It’s not surprising to see how the climate crisis has brought to the fore products that not only cover personal wellbeing, but also consider the impact on the environment. Today’s health-conscious consumers demand more from their snacking experiences, says Walsh, who believes ‘consumers want to snack on something that they like to be associated with’. “These include ‘better for you and better for the planet products’ – with a focus on sustainable packaging, ethical employer conditions, or companies that support positive causes.” 

There’s no shortage of brands emerging with ethics at their core. For example, ChicP is on a mission to reduce food waste, help British farmers and encourage consumers to eat more plant-based foods – ideally local and seasonal. As well as environmental causes, brands such as Howdah (which has a range of authentic Indian snacks) aim to support social causes – it provides a free school lunch for children in India for every pack bought. 

The Sottish Seaweed Co is another big player with a mission for good. Striving to introduce local superfoods into people’s lunches, its new Sweet Sriracha Seaweed (and supergrain) Chips are made with sustainably harvested seaweed from the rugged, isolated shorelines of Wick, North Scotland. Seaweed is a source of prebiotic fibre, protein, magnesium, antioxidants and iodine, providing a sustainable and healthy alternative to crisps. 

WFH perks
According to research from Skynova ‘nearly half (49%) of those surveyed said they made lunch at home while working remotely, followed by delivery (42%), leftovers (41%) and snacks (38%). 30% of people said dining out was one of their usual lunch methods’. The future of how we work has significantly been altered by COVID, and as more of us switch to hybrid working, homemade meals are quickly becoming a large part of lunch time life.

Making this easier than ever, Vada Pow has introduced quick and easy hot lunch additions to it range, like its Vegan Spiced Potato Cakes and Croquette Tikka Masala. Additionally, Gosh! offers a convenient but nutritious alternative to snacking with its range of ready-to-eat bites, including Smokey BBQ and Sweet Potato variants. These developments are giving more people the ability to have substantial, tasty lunches that are far removed from boring salads and soggy sandwiches. For those with busy lifestyles, convenience is key – which is why even leading natural and organic brands like Suma are introducing nutritious ‘lazy vegan lunches’ such as its Vegetable Stew with Dumplings in a can. 

The evolution of snacks and healthy lunch products is booming. Gone are the days when comfort eating meant indulging in products high in salt, sugar and unhealthy fats. The modern market is sophisticated and is meeting the needs of busy people wanting to use snacking – and lunching – as a way to reflect their values and enhance their overall wellness. Championing health, ethics and sustainability – and not forgetting innovation and taste – is a sure-fire way to keep today’s consumers coming back for more.

lunch! is back at ExCeL
lunch! – the definitive event for cafés, coffee shops and food-to-go – returns to ExCeL London on 14-15 September 2022. According to Katie Tyler, event director, lunch! is the venue to see the very best innovation in healthy food-to-go.

“lunch! prides itself on being the place to gain the inside track on what key trends/developments will be shaping the food-to-go market in the years ahead. And buyers and retailers will find plenty of healthy lunch and snack exhibitors at the show this year – including new and established natural and organic brands. We can’t wait to get the industry back together this September.” 

With over 300 suppliers, just a few of the brands exhibiting are: Delicious Ideas; Nutrilicious; Organix; Nobl Thirst; Oddlygood Global; Waterbomb; Ninju; JNCK Bakery; Love Corn; Oh My Fruity Goodness; Vita Coco; Rheal Superfoods; Huel; Yumello; Pip & Nut; Perkier Foods; and Glebe Farm Foods. 

The show will also have a three-theatre keynote programme featuring leading professionals from Gail’s Bakery, itsu, Tossed and Caffè Nero.


Clearspring’s delicious Organic Seaveg Crispies

Tel: 020 8749 1781
E-mail:  [email protected]

Clearspring’s light, thin and crispy Organic Seaveg Crispies are a delicious seaweed snack. They are made using just a few simple ingredients; nori seaweed grown in the clear waters off the coast of South Korea, unrefined sea salt, organic sunflower oil and they are available in Original, Chilli, Ginger and Turmeric flavours. 

The organic nori is baked for just a few seconds to produce this tasty, convenient and nutritious snack. They are gluten free, vegan, low calorie and organic which make them the perfect snack for any time of day! You can also use them as a garnish for your rice and salad dishes. 


Black Onion Seed Keto Crackers

Tel: 07938 437101
E-mail:  [email protected]

Crammed with flavour and packed full of seeds and goodness. Every ingredient in these bite-sized seeded crackers has been carefully chosen to provide a low-carb savoury snack like no other. Activated charcoal combined with black onion seeds and healthy fats offer a whole snack load of nutrients and antioxidants. Each serving contains only 1.4g net carbs, 8.8g of protein and they are made with100% natural ingredients. Enjoy on their own as a perfect on-the-go snack, dunked into your favourite dips or crumbled over salads and soups. Low-carb, plant-based and gluten free.


Flower & White: Lighting the way in non HFSS Confectionery

Flower & White
Email:  [email protected]
Tel: 01952 684626

With HFSS regulations afoot, the timely launch of two HFSS compliant naked mallow bars; low in calories with 30% less sugar, is a welcome treat from Flower & White. In two ‘smoothie’ inspired flavours, the luxuriously light Strawberry and banana, and totally tropical Mango and Passionfruit bars, weigh in at less than 60 calories each. Two additional varieties from their core range, smothered in ethically sourced chocolate, and less than 99 calories each, are available in raspberry and white chocolate and salted caramel and milk chocolate. All are gluten free, vegetarian, low calorie, high in fibre with natural flavours and colours. 


Olly’s Pretzel Thins, Olly’s Chocolate Pretzel Thins and Olly’s Olives

Tel: 07956 363318
E-mail:  [email protected]

Olly’s are a team of innovative snack creators on a mission to feed the planet’s feel good with their range of naturally delicious snacks that deliver health at the heart and flavour to the full. 

Created by London-based snack fanatic, Olly Hiscocks, Olly’s have grown from a West London market stall to a global snacking brand with over 30,000 stocking points worldwide. 

What makes the magic happen in the Olly’s kitchen…

PRETZEL THINS – The planet’s thinnest pretzels! These are the pretzel’s answer to the crisp. A healthier and funky flavoured alternative which is oven-baked and vegan friendly. They’re light, crispy, delicious with all dips and destined to be your new favourite snack. IT’S TIME FOR THE WORLD TO BE IMPRETZED!

CHOCOLATE PRETZELS – Did Olly stop the pretzel thin magic there? No he did not… He decided to take his glorious oven-baked & lightly salted pretzel thins and coat them in 100% Belgian Chocolate! Providing the world with the oll-timate sweet & salty snack experience. What’s more… The dark chocolate is vegan too!

MARINATED OLIVES IN HASSLE-FREE POUCHES – And these were Olly’s original creation! They’ve not only stood the test of time, but have gone on to revolutionise the olive eating experience. Glorious Greek olives dressed to impress in mouthwatering marinades and served up in hassle-free snack pouches that contain no stones, no messy oils, no artificials and no need to be kept in the fridge!

So when it comes to visiting the lunch! event (if you’re one of the lucky people that do!)… Pop on over to the Olly’s stand and give these all a try. You’ll be leaving with a smile on your face!