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2019 Protein Snack Craze

by Matt Weik

I don’t have any insider information (I wish I did), but I have a feeling 2019 is going to be the year where everyone starts thinking outside of the box when it comes to new ways to sell protein snack “supplements.” What do I mean when I say protein snack? I’m talking about snack items that Americans consume regularly, only with additional protein added to them. We’ve seen the movement start a few years ago but 2018 is when more and more brands started adding items such as a protein snack to their portfolio. Some of the products are innovative while some brands do what they always do and that’s copycat something another brand launches.

Protein Snack Category

I think it’s time we give it its own category and simply call it the protein snack category. We have protein chips, protein cereal, protein muffins, protein cheese puffs, protein coated almonds, protein cakes, protein cookies, protein brownies, and more.

While many of these protein snack options won’t be sold in gyms, they should do well in supplement stores as well as FDM (where most people are shopping for their food items anyway). Americans are trending in the direction where they are looking to add more protein to their diet. A protein snack seems like an amazing option if they don’t want to consume more whole foods such as chicken, steak, eggs, turkey, fish, etc.

It will be hard to cut into the sales of the behemoth we call the protein powder category, but people are starting to get sick and played out over the current landscape of the protein powder market. Very few brands are thinking outside of the box with their protein powder and while sales continue to increase due to the demand for protein powder among fitness enthusiasts, no one seems to be jumping up and down when a new protein powder hits the shelves of their local supplement store.

Yet, protein snacks have seen growth year over year which could lead brands to believe there is something there they should be focusing on. Brands who have their finger on the pulse and listen to consumers know that convenience is king. And when it comes to healthy snack options, the choices are fairly limited at your local grocery store or convenience store. And let’s face it, you can only eat so many protein bars before just looking at them will cause you to dry heave.

Protein Snacks Failed in the Past

This is 100% the truth. Protein snacks most definitely failed years ago. But in my opinion, it was too early and “before its time.” You had the protein pudding many moons ago by a well-known celebrity, Sylvester Stallone, that failed. You had protein Jell-O (but not that actual name brand with funny man but now in prison inmate, Bill Cosby) made by multiple brands. There were even some protein brownies and cereals out there that flopped. So, how is this any different?

To be honest, I could be completely off with my prediction (I’ve been wrong before and I’m not afraid to admit that). However, it’s hard to dispute the fact that brands are starting to get a little more innovative with their protein offerings.

I can see brands launching more items like protein popcorn, protein pretzels, protein chocolate bars, protein ice cream (this one I’m on the fence about even though there is a brand who launched such a product), among others. But, here is where I think things will get interesting. I think brands will start to partner with other brands outside our industry.

We saw in 2018 BSN partner with Cold Stone Creamery to launch some delicious protein powder flavors. What’s not to say that the partnership doesn’t flip-flop and BSN supplies Cold Stone Creamery with protein powder to create a protein ice cream? Hmm. Interesting concept and one that both parties should consider. I think we will also see brands partnering with cereal brands, chip brands, mini pastry brands, and similar. Why? Because they already have the focus, audience, and market share. It would only make sense for supplement brands to partner with someone who could help them gain immediate exposure and sales. And when you think about it, the only thing that supplement companies would really be giving up would be some raw materials to produce the product (and obviously a marketing spend to get the attention of their audience).

Everyone has heard of Little Debbie cakes and snacks. Why not partner with someone who already has a name and together create a protein snack that health and fitness-minded individuals wouldn’t feel bad buying and eating? It’s a win-win for all parties involved. Obviously, the entire profile of the products created would need to change since no one would want all of the sugar and carbohydrates, but I’m just using Little Debbie as an example.

Could you imagine protein snacks like chocolate protein cupcakes, strawberry shortcake protein rolls, protein swiss rolls, and protein zebra cakes? Something guilt-free that consumers could enjoy late at night or while sitting in their office at 2:30pm when their stomach is growling. Pre-packaged bags of products like protein chips and pretzels would also be huge grab-and-go protein snack items.

Again, I could be wrong, but I have a feeling 2019 is the year of the protein snack craze. I, for one, would love to see this as I see tremendous value and potential for such a category. I’m always looking for new ways to get in more protein and a protein snack option would definitely be high up on my list. What are your thoughts? Would you purchase a protein snack over another choice?

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