As we tentatively emerge from lockdown, Jane Wolfe unpacks what’s on offer for those heading back to the office seeking a quick, nutritious lunch or healthy snack

Not only has the pandemic resulted in a rise in snacking but it’s also increased consumer interest in personal wellness, and with highly nutritional innovations abounding – many offering functional benefits – the healthy snacking category is one to watch. 

Although the new normal has yet to be established, hybrid working (from both home and office) will be the future for many of us, and a survey by Glanbia Nutritionals found that 25% of people said that as a result of working in a hybrid pattern they’d eat more snacks to replace meals, with 31% saying they’d buy more on-the-go snacks. The benefits sought in snacks varied with age, with 25% of Gen Zs looking for low-calorie and 18% seeking protein-rich options, while 36% of over-55s wanting low- or no-sugar snacks.

“The lockdowns have undoubtedly influenced the ‘food- and drink-to-go’ group and caused people to reassess their needs,” say Essential Trading co-op members Nick Benson and Jimmy Nelson. “There is much more emphasis on what’s healthy and wholesome … whereas at the start of this recent home working period, people were less self-consciousness about what they were eating, and healthy diets took a back seat. There is an increase in keeping fit, socializing and hobbies, and less time to allocate to chores, particularly for the younger workforce. Healthy snacks and lunches are therefore essential for these groups, who are more reliant on ‘grab-and-go’ produce.” 

Essential seeks to promote healthier and more responsible snacking and stocks plenty of vegan or vegetarian treats that fit that bill. “We have around 70 lines of savoury snacks and 130 sweet snacks and bars. In addition to this, there are close to 250 different chocolate bars, almost all of which are organic. There is also an extensive range of largely organic crackers and biscuits. Big sellers are familiar names such as Nairns, Eat Real, Nakd, Booja-Booja and Montezuma’s, but we feature a plethora of smaller, more artisan producers – Radek’s, Island Bakery, Raw Chocolate Co and Rhythm 108 to mention just a few. There are also a number of choice sweet and savoury snacks in our own Essential retail pack range, not to mention dried fruits, nuts and seeds.”

A boost of protein
Demand for high-protein snacks is being met by brands using peas, chickpeas, beans and insect flour to create crackers, chips, pops and puffs, or protein balls incorporating nuts and seeds.

Examples include BEPPS Snacks, which in July received a £400k injection from investors. It bases its popped and puffed bites on black-eyed peas and chickpeas to provide a boost of natural protein and fibre. The gluten-free range contains 90 calories per serving and its recent additions are Popped Salt & Black Pepper Chips, Popped BBQ Chips and Salt & Vinegar Puffs.

A ‘category first’, Real Handful’s new protein-rich Craft Baked Nuts feature hi-oleic peanuts and almonds, oven baked in batches and available in Sea Salted Peanuts, Salt & Vinegar Peanuts and Smoky BBQ Almonds, while its new Savoury Trail Mixes in Super Sweet & Salty, Salt & Vinegar Verve and Smokin’ BBQ combine baked nuts and crunchy salted corn. 

The latest additions to Easy Bean’s offer are Yellow Pea & Sunflower Seed and Chickpea, Turmeric & Nigella Seed Crackers, using protein-packed pulse flours, milled in the UK from British grown crops; and Kallø’s lentil and pea-based Veggie Cakes have also seen two new variants: Tomato Salsa, Lime & Coriander and Caramelised Onion Chutney. 

“Functional snacks for energy, focus and relaxation are increasingly trending with consumers”

“We’ve noticed that the health cues that have most shopper appeal are low-calorie, portion-controlled options that are high in protein and fibre,” says Bryan Martins at Kallø’s owner Ecotone UK, adding that taste is also a key purchase driver. “The flavour profile is quite grown-up, sophisticated, and ideal for the culinary curious consumer, flexitarians or those looking for a convenient, yet premium snacking option in a wide range of innovative flavours.”

For a Mediterranean-inspired topping for these plant-protein platforms, vegan brand Follow Your Heart has just launched Dairy-Free Greek Style Crumbles which can be used as a ‘like for like’ replacement for traditional feta.

Fully functional
Along with boredom and reward, another main reason to snack is stress, which Glanbia cites as one of the main drivers of the rise in demand for products with neuro-enhancing adaptogens – over half of 25-44 years are attracted by ingredients with calming effects.

“Consumer choices have been hugely impacted by the overhaul in our daily lives caused by the pandemic, and brands should take note that the ‘new normal’ is impacting snacking habits once again,” says Ludi Marché, director of global insights at Glanbia Nutritionals. “According to our insights, functional snacks for energy, focus and relaxation
are increasingly trending with consumers.”

Fledgling brand Vite Naturals is tapping into this trend with an initial offering which includes Vite Brain bar, made from plant-based, functional ingredients and available in Ginger Apple and Dark Choc & Nut. The nootropic snacks are designed to nourish the mind and enhance mental performance with elements including alpha GPC, Rhodiola rosea, lions mane, Bacopa monnieri, flaxseed, caffeine, l-theanine and pantothenic acid.

The healthy and protein bar segment is outperforming the market overall and growing by 87%, according to FULFIL, whose low-sugar Vitamin & Protein bars include Chocolate Salted Caramel and Chocolate Hazelnut Whip. It believes the impact of COVID has accelerated the demand for brands that support a healthier lifestyle.  

Snacking hasn’t changed, but
what consumers snack on has. People are more demanding … with 80% of consumers now snacking with purpose

“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, consumers are attracted to a snack bar that provides the health benefits they are seeking, but with zero compromise on taste,” says MD Steve Rich. “Snacking hasn’t changed, but what consumers snack on has. People are more demanding … with 80% of consumers now snacking with purpose. We are increasingly seeing ‘mindless munching’ being replaced with snacks that deliver a beneficial purpose as people make more informed snacking choices.”

In a bid to shake up the bar sector, The Savourists has ditched the sweet and innovated with a savoury duo in Black Olive & Nori Seaweed and Sundried Tomato & Herb, which incorporate ancient grains such as quinoa, puffed amaranth and sunflower seeds to create a gluten-free snack high in fibre and plant-based protein. 

Ready for lunch
Ideal for a quick lunch, the nutritional credentials of snack pots and ready meals has improved beyond recognition in recent years, offering innovations that are as healthy as they are convenient. 

“A desire for convenience continues to be an upwards trend,” Essential notes.
“We have a huge selection of ready meals in tins and packets, many of which are vegan, organic and gluten-free. In addition, we stock a variety of cooking sauces and mixes, and there are numerous chilled and frozen examples. Biona, Free & Easy and Suma are good sellers, as are our own Essential brand of hearty soups.”

Marking Jimmy Joy’s first foray into the instant hot meal market, plant-based Plenny Pots (‘effectively an ultra-healthy Pot Noodle’) have come to market to provide a convenient option with 26 essential vitamins and minerals and 20g of protein. A source of fibre, low in sugar and made with natural whole foods including black beans, lentils and pea protein, the pots come in Creamy Cajun Pasta, Tikka Masala and Vegetable Korma.

This year also saw Easy Bean relaunch its gluten-free chilled meal pots – Mexican Mixed Bean & Red Pepper Chilli, Green Lentil & Sweet Chestnut Ragout and Cauliflower & Spinach Sambar Dahl – with improved recipes; and as part of its raft of rebranded and new SKUs, Tideford Organics Superfoods range includes Energising Three Bean Chilli Veg Pot, Revitalising Butternut + Apricot Veg Pot and Immunity Build Pea, Leek + Garlic Veg Pot.

Kids’ stuff
Nutritious food for little ones is always in demand, and recent snack launches are aiming to help kids eat healthily via fun, inventive creations. 

“Our recent research revealed that a quarter of parents currently feel guilty about their child’s diet, with the top areas for improvement being more variety and more vegetables consumed,” says Emily Day, Organix head of food development. “[Organix] finger foods and snacks  … are specifically designed to get little ones exploring more veggie flavours by giving them the taste of the more grown-up, savoury flavours … which supports them in learning to accept and love a wider range of veggies in their diet.”

Parents should try and make snack time fun and enjoyable by … creating visually fun foods to explore, hold and munch on

Day adds that snack time can provide an excellent opportunity to squeeze in a little extra nutrition. “A great way to get little ones learning to love a wide variety is by introducing … different shapes and textures – so parents should try and make snack time fun and enjoyable by cutting the fruit and veg into different shapes and creating visually fun foods to explore, hold and munch on.”

The brand’s latest finger foods are Veggie Mini Mix Ups – veggie puffs in heart, hoop and star shapes, made using organic veg to introduce savoury flavours during the first year of weaning. The no-added salt snacks come in Green Pea, Carrot & Beetroot and Parsnip variants.

New kids’ snack brand Goal Power aims to inspire an active lifestyle through its 100% natural flapjacks presented in a collectable match box containing a football card game with facts and skills to learn. Kids are encouraged to use its online platform to develop new interests, sporting skills or hobbies. The hand-baked bars (Strawberry and Blueberry) blend wholegrain oats, coconut, dates, pea protein, sunflower seeds and fruits. With no added sugar, they’re high in fibre and nut-, gluten- and palm oil-free.

Out to lunch
According to Chris Brazier, lunch! events director, the on-the-move and snacking categories will have a healthy presence at this year’s show. “We’ve never had so many healthy food-to-go products at lunch!,” he says. “Whether organic, natural, vegan or certified with other credentials, healthy snacking has matured and now makes up the majority of products at the definitive show for cafés, coffee shops, supermarkets and food-to-go.” 

Making a welcome return to ExCeL London (23-24 September), lunch! will see over 300 exhibitors, including Around Noon, Delice de France, Deli Lites, Hippeas, Innocent, Magrini, NOBL, Proper, Rapid Action Packaging, Rombouts, Soho Sandwich Co, UCC Coffee and Wholegood. 

It will also be home to three free keynote theatres featuring inspirational industry leaders from companies including Pret, itsu, Pure, Tossed, LEON and Morrisons.


Exciting new flavours for Clearspring’s Instant Miso Soups

Tel:  0208 749 1781

Clearspring recently adding three innovative new flavours to their popular and convenient Organic Gluten Free Instant Miso Soup Pastes range; Ginger & Turmeric, Creamy Sesame and Hot & Spicy. 

Each pack contains 4 easy-to-use sachets. The new Miso Soups are all made using natural and organic ingredients, are 100% plant-based, made in the UK using authentic Japanese Miso and carry a strong Gluten Free call-out on pack. The range sits perfectly alongside Clearspring’s existing Miso Soup Pastes and is aimed at offering something new to existing category shoppers whilst enticing new shoppers with delicious new flavour combinations. 



Hlthpunk Ltd
Tel: 07977 401 276
E-mail:  [email protected]

Organic Oat Based Vegan Mayonnaise
The world’s first oat based vegan mayo. We aren’t in the habit of blowing our own trumpets but our vegan oat iteration is hands down, the best tasting, smoothest plant-based mayo on the planet.
Packs a tasty punch with the combination of a planet friendly creamy oat base, sunflower oil, turmeric, acerola, ashwagandha and a generous serving of pea protein.
You’ll be spreading our Bionnaise in places you never thought of!
“Not only is this the best-tasting vegan mayo I’ve ever discovered, but it also tops all other non-vegan mayos on my taste scale”
The Kitchn (JAN 22, 202O)


Sunita ‘Going Nuts!’ Range

Skoulikas Bedford LTd
Tel: 01234 354 783
E-mail:  [email protected]

Introducing an exciting new range of sesame and nut butters from Sunita. With a twist on their traditional Light Tahini they offer a creamy rich blend of Almond & Sesame, Cashew & Sesame and Cocoa & Sesame. Made with natural ingredients with no added salt or palm oil. Also in the range is a 4 Nut Butter – a protein packed mix of roasted peanuts, almonds, cashews and hazelnuts. Going Nuts! can be used as a spread, in smoothies, cooking & baking or simply drizzled over fresh fruit or ice cream. GM free, gluten free, salt free, palm oil free, Kosher & vegan.


Amazing Savoury Banana Crisps

Katie’s Food Co
Tel: 07500 737 275
E-mail:  [email protected]

For as long as I can remember food has been my first love and passion. Having worked for many food brands I was always searching for the one, I finally found it, in Thailand… Savoury Banana Crisps… love at first bite!!
A healthier alternative to the traditional crisp. A perfect healthy snack for your lunchtime cravings.
Everyone loves crisps, but it’s a guilty indulgence. Here’s a healthier option that doesn’t sacrifice on taste, these crisps will satisfy your cravings and make your tummy happy.
These banana crisps are vegan, gluten free, low in sugar and completely natural, plus they count as one of your five a day!
My mission in life is to excite and inspire your taste buds by bringing the best-tasting and healthiest unique snacks from around the world!


Bonsan Organic Cookie Melts

Tel: 0208 547 2775
E-mail:  [email protected]

Bonsan Cookie Melts were created to address increasing demand for better-for-you sweet snacks. Our vegan, gluten-free cookies are made from 100% natural ingredients, with no refined sugar, artificial colours or flavours. With an irresistible gooey centre, and naturally sweetened with organic dates, these bite size snacks are the perfect grab and go healthier treat. Available in 3 popular flavours, Peanut Butter, Hazelnut Brownie or creamy Coconut Dream. 


Azores Quality Skipjack Tuna  

Organico Realfoods
Tel: 01189 238760
E: [email protected]

100% pole and line fished in the Azores, Fish4Ever skipjack tuna sets the highest standard in quality and sustainability. Fish4Ever is ranked top of the world by Greenpeace with an 89% pass rate and top in the UK by Ethical Consumer, the most independent ethical auditors in the country, and each can is traceable back to the boats that caught it by entering a code on the Fish4Ever website. Our quality charter ensures that we only ever buy on quality, never price, we use the shortest possible supply chain, we fish and pack local to the fish, and we only ever add certified organic ingredients. Canned fish is one of nature’s superfoods, and our skipjack tuna is no exception, rich in protein, B vitamins, Selenium, and Vitamin A. Experts recommend 3 portions of fish per week, but with our busy lives fresh fish can be difficult to manage. With our Azores quality Skipjack Tuna, quick and healthy meals couldn’t be easier, simply add to a fresh salad or rice bowl, and don’t forget to make use of the amazing first cold pressed olive oil.