The latest wellness revolution: plant-based snacks with functional ingredients

The latest wellness revolution are snacks combining plant-based ingredients with functional foods for the ultimate healthy indulgence

1 Mar 2024

Hype & Trend Signal
Trend Updates

As the demand for plant-based products continues to soar, we spot an interesting development in new plant-based product releases. Product wrappers are filled with health benefits, dietary requirements and sustainability claims. 

From nutrient-packed pastries to superfood-infused chocolates, there seems to be a seamless marriage of veganism and functional food. This meansfoods with specific – mental or physical – health-boosting properties, consumed mainly for this specific purpose. Are we heading towards a future where indulgence, wellness and sustainability coexist on every plate? Explore this exciting new frontier where consumers ask the food industry to deliver it all. 

Why vegan and functional foods are a match made in health heaven

The fusion of veganism and functional foods isn't a recent phenomenon. The motivation to eat plant-based is twofold: it’s perceived to be healthy and good for the environment. People opting for a plant-based diet have always partly been motivated by health considerations. According to our latest global Taste Tomorrow consumer survey, 58% of people agree that plant-based is healthier than animal-based food.

Especially young consumers go vegan for health benefits

A poll by MIDSS showed that Gen Z’ers in particular are going vegan for the health benefits. For 52% of young consumers aged 12 to 27, that was the most important motivation behind opting for a plant-based diet. Four out of 10 Gen Z vegans believed that veganism has a positive impact on the environment, but a mere 17% of them said they follow the diet for environmental reasons. 

Health- conscious consumers opt for plant-based and functional food

Because many health-conscious consumers tend toward plant-based products, it is less surprising the vegan category and functional food category are now often seamlessly blending together. Think of the Wellness by Samantha cookies. The cookies in flavors such as matcha white chip and chocolate fudge are plant-based, gluten-free, adaptogenic, organic and clean label. That makes them ideal to “fight that midday slump”, because the cookies “won’t spike your blood sugar or give you that sugary crash”. The adaptogenic ingredients such as maca root are said to provide sustained energy throughout the day, help with focus, improve mood, reduce anxiety, and increase libido. So it’s a cookie that presents itself as truly delivering in all areas! 


Healthier snacks instead of snacking less

The common ethos veganism and functional foods share, is a commitment to enhancing well-being. Plant-based diets are renowned for their health benefits, while functional foods are designed to offer targeted health advantages. Very useful in a world where 62% of consumers prefer to opt for healthier options and not to compromise on the number of food consumptions or snacking occasions, as our survey among 20,000 people worldwide showed. People want it all, their foods have to be super indulgent, healthy for their mind and body and matching their diet and personal values.

Health and indulgence are no longer polar opposites

Striking the delicate balance between health and indulgence is crucial for food producers, as taste ranks among the top factors influencing consumers’ choices when purchasing bread, pastries, cakes, patisserie, and chocolate. New snacks have to satisfy sweet cravings but also contribute to overall well-being. Toto Foods understood that assignment very well. Their birthday cookie sporting vegan white chocolate chips and colorful sprinkles is promoted as “a party in your mouth (and your whole body)”, because the ingredients benefit gut health, but can also help to stabilize your mood and improves performance and focus. It’s fun and indulging, but consumers don’t have to feel guilty while eating it, because it offers so many health benefits.

Turns out you can have your cake and eat it too!

At least for the consumers that look for food that delivers on mental health (65% of global consumers) or those that are after food products that boost energy throughout the day )73% of global consumers). But also for people who are craving gut-health friendly vegan snacks or focus inducing cookies, there are plenty of options available.

Have a look at these examples:

Amino Balls

School-safe snacks that provide energy without bloating

Amino Balls is a snack targeted towards busy consumers and health-conscious parents. The snack balls in flavors such as caramel macchiato and chocolate chip cookie dough provide traces of all amino acids, making them a complete protein source.
To give some context: nine types of amino acids we must ingest through our diet. Most plant proteins are incomplete however and miss at least one of the essential amino acids. This means that people should eat a variety of plant-based food to be sure to fulfill their daily amino acids needs. The Amino Balls offer a snack that is a complete source of amino acids while being plant-based.
They are promoted as quick energy boosts or between-meal snacks that are inclusive to all, delivering sustained energy without causing bloating or lethargy. Amino Balls are gluten-free, vegan, kosher, halal, and have nut-free options, making the snack ‘school safe’. 



Nootropic Superfood Protein Bars

Mindright claims their superfood protein bars contain ingredients that are “proven to unlock the power of a healthy mind”, think of antioxidants, healthy fats and minerals. Increased focus, improved mood and more productivity are promised to those who snack their bars as part of their brain-boosting daily routine.  To achieve those goals, Mindright has developed its own +NOOTROPIC BLEND of clinically-studied ingredients that are 100% traceable and tested.

Enzymedica Digest Gold Fiber+ Cookies

Cookies made by health supplement experts

Even health supplement producers are developing their own cookies now! The Fiber Cookies by Enzymedica are plant-based and designed to tackle belly bloat, promote regularity and curb hunger. But they are also beneficial to gut health, mood and heart health. Each serving delivers 5 grams of dietary fiber, along with clinically studied probiotics and prebiotics. The fiber rich cookies come in the flavors Blueberry and Harvest Oats.


Candy bar with as much fiber as 5 cups of kale

Harken proves that vegan functional food can be much more than protein bars. The self proclaimed ‘functional candy bar’ positions itself as a Snickers or Mars competitor. The 140 calorie and fiber rich snack bars consist of gooey caramel, velvety nougat, crunchy peanuts and chocolate. Their secret? Harken says its “infusing them with superfoods that nourish and satiate”, such as dates, tapioca and oat milk chocolate. 

Ticking off consumer desires

Among the listed product benefits, we spot a lot of the top consumer priorities with regards to healthiness in baked goods. 

According to our latest Taste Tomorrow consumer data, the top 3 consumer priorities with regards to healthiness in baked goods are:

  1. All natural ingredients - 41%
  2. Good for digestion and gut health - 29%
  3. Good energy balance - 25% 

But in the top 10 these also make an appearance:

  • good for body weight management - 20%
  • good for mental health (alertness, stress relief, relaxation) - 18%
  • good for immune health - 17%
  • plant-based products - 14%

If you want to attract today’s health oriented consumer, it's best to tick off multiple in your new product releases. The more benefits, the better, it seems. Although the combination of ingredients and benefits need to make sense in a product.

Adaptogens, nootropics and botanicals are the hottest functional ingredients for chocolate

68% of consumers now perceive botanicals such as herbs, chamomile and cinnamon as a healthy addition to chocolate, a number that was just 53% in 2021. Curious what’s the difference between adaptogens, nootropics and botanicals? And how chocolate brands are incorporating them into their products? Dive into the chocolate category where pleasure meets performance.

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