Consumers are hungry for snacks—and healthy ones at that.
The snack industry is going global, growing US$3.4 billion worldwide in just 2017. Between 2012 and 2016, the industry has grown at a compound annual growth rate of 10%. And we’re not talking about the classically low-quality, unhealthy on-the-go snacks either. Consumers aren’t interested in trading quick convenience for quality or health. These snacks are for mindful eaters who look for clean and clear labels.
“Let’s face it,” Dietitian Abby Langer tells the UK’s Daily Mail, “we all like to treat ourselves, and ‘better-for-you’ snack foods were a top trend at the show this year.” Even major grocery stores are seeing an uptick in sales of the “snackable” fruit and vegetable category, selling more baby carrots, grapes, fruit cups, dried fruit and nut snacks, and fresh smoothies than ever.
“Healthy snacking isn’t an oxymoron anymore,” Robbie Rech of Hope Foods, which makes a variety of hummuses, tells Snacking News.
What’s most interesting about this trend is the amount of entrepreneurial small businesses and local restaurants that have jumped on board. Suddenly every thriving city in North America seems to have several juice bars, fresh smoothie shops, restaurants that serve only plant-based protein, yogurt bars and nut shops. Plus, there are now dozens of well-branded, all-natural snacks for sale at the front of every grocery store.
Consumers asked for healthy to-go snacks and that’s just what they’re getting. Here are some examples of Canadian owner-operated restaurants—or snack bars, rather—that are setting new standards (and trends) for healthy snack ideas.
Plant-based protein shakes, bowls, and bars
Bolt Fresh Bar in Toronto
From power and energy parfaits and chia seed puddings to smoothies, salads and grain bowls, this plant-based protein fresh bar in Toronto has everything a healthy snacker could want on-the-go. Our personal favourite menu item is the berry chia seed pudding, loaded with nourishing coconut milk, garden berries, banana, chia seeds and toasted coconut for a little crunch. Yum!
The Good Stuff in Vancouver
These freshly blended superfood smoothies are the perfect morning or afternoon pick-me-up. This is especially true for those of us who are fighting seasonal allergies and need an immune boost. Try the Easy Greens smoothie with mint, cucumber, lemon and pear. It’s the epitome of spring freshness and acts as the perfect digestive aid.
Fresh yogurt bars
Astarté Fresh Yogurt Bar in Toronto
Yes, this is Canada’s first fresh Greek yogurt bar—and a trendsetter at that. Astarté specializes in fresh Greek yogurt bowls that are super good for you and totally free of refined sugars, thickeners and other not-so-natural products. Our favourite combination tops fresh maple syrup from Quebec, Ontario local honey, fresh-baked granola and good-old Canadian jams—or fresh fruit when it’s in season.
Cold-pressed juice bars
Juice bars are quickly becoming the top hipster hangouts in trendy neighbourhoods across North America. Just like a coffee shop, these juice bars are a great place to work, meet friends and have a snack—but not just any snack. Think 100% organic, cold-pressed, unpasteurized juices geared toward improving various bodily functions, including balance, energy, circulation, focus and so on. It also helps that these juices tend to be delicious. Need a kickstart into summer? Try immune boost shots with turmeric, ginger, lemon, honey and cayenne. It’ll knock your socks off.
Let’s just say that considering the last few health and wellness snack trends, I won’t be surprised to see a Kombucha bar open (and flourish) anytime soon.
Nuts & popcorn shops
Okay, nuts and popcorn shops aren’t necessarily new, but they have certainly upped their game recently. We’ve all ordered popcorn from a snack vendor at a baseball game or in a busy airport (ahem, Chicago) or purchased festive roasted chestnuts on a street corner at Christmas. Also, Rocky Mountaineer and other chocolate shops have been slanging nuts and popcorn for decades.
But this is different. The Nut Merchant’s products are toasted and roasted in Vancouver and offer an interesting flavour—and new branding—twist that seems to be setting the stage for a nut renaissance. Think maple sriracha pecans, coconut vanilla bean cashews and lime chipotle pistachios. Plus, Toronto Popcorn Company has gone totally nuts with flavours like bacon and cheddar, buffalo kick, cinnamon toast, orange peel, vanilla sponge cake and watermelon.
All natural freezies
Tübify: Craft freezies in Vancouver
You couldn’t get more trendy than Tübify, even if you tried. So, we all grew up with suspicious Mr. Freeze ginormous plastic packaging that sometimes tasted like grapes or cherry and often made your throat scratchy. But that was the 80s and 90s. Today’s freezies are organic, certified vegan, fair trade, nut free, gluten free and delicious. Kids today are so lucky. For example, Tübify’s raspberry raven lemonade is made from organic raspberries from BC’s Fraser Valley. Even the water is filtered. What?!
Anyone hungry for a snack?