It’s a man thing…

Or perhaps it is more accurate to say, a lack of one. Although healthy snacking among women has risen in the past year, men between the ages of 18-34 persist in unhealthy snacking. Why? According to Mintel, it is because healthy snacks are just not “manly enough”, which is why men in that age group have been given the distinction of being “the greatest opportunity for industry players” by Mintel.

In Mintel’s 2011 Healthy Snacking Consumer study, men aged 18-34 were found to be eating more snacks than they did the previous year, and yet were less likely to make an effort to snack on foods that were healthy. Health benefits alone don’t seem to do it for men. According to Mintel, “a snack’s health position needs to be of less consequence than taste, image and trendiness in order for it to have a more masculine slant”. For men more so then women, taste really does matter when it comes to creating a successful snack.

The most successful snacks to date come from creating a lower-calorie version of an original snack or using ingredients that men already identify as “tasty”.  Men don’t want to sacrifice taste, but offer a healthier alternative that still tastes great and men (or anyone for that matter) will go for it. This trend can be seen predominantly in Men Health’s Magazine features on “Eat This, Not That”.  In cases such as these, men will take the healthier route but only because they know they will not have to sacrifice their taste buds. One current example is Dr. Pepper Ten, a 10-calorie soft drink that not only promises not to sacrifice taste, but also has the distinction of being one of the few products that is marketed to men exclusively through their “It’s Not for Women” campaign.

Another way to appeal to men is to use healthy ingredients that many already enjoy. Peanuts are a great example, I mean who doesn’t love snacking on peanuts while enjoying an ice-cold beer? Plus, peanuts are an excellent source of protein. One of my favorite examples is Nature Valley’s new peanut, almond and dark chocolate protein bars.  Peanuts and chocolate is a tried and true combination, and protein has the functional benefit of keeping you fuller longer.

However, taste was found to be almost equally as important as a trendy image. One way to achieve this is through athlete endorsement, which has been successfully used by Gatorade for years. Mintel also suggests positioning the brand or product as an “extreme” that focuses on men’s “masculinity and ego”. This has been done successfully across a number of products and brands, including the pre mentioned Dr. Pepper Ten and Old Spice Body Wash. Humor, especially violent humor, is also a great way to appeal to men. The Snickers “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign is a great example for snacks packed with protein. By focusing on the humorous but debilitating effect of hunger, protein snacks can position themselves as a great tasting “fix” while their health benefits remain subconsciously in the background.

Healthy Snacks Are Boring Snacks

It is that time again, that hour right before lunch or midway through the afternoon, when you feel your stomach rumble. You get up, stretch, maybe grab another cup of coffee, but what you really want is something to eat, something quick to tide you over until your next meal. What you want is a snack.

If this sounds familiar you are not alone. Mintel reported in a recent survey that about two thirds of the population snack between meals. Of those Snackers, Mintel found that only 27% chow down on healthy foods. This is at direct odds with the National Research Center’s 2010 Consumer Report that stated that 90% of the population said they had a healthy diet. In their report, Mintel hypothesized that this discrepancy is due to the fact that the perception of what constitutes, as a healthy snack is highly subjective. Believe or not 9% of the population believes that cookies and potato chips count as healthy snacks. If only life was that simple.

For the rest of us, its not that we don’t know what a healthy snack is, it is that healthy snacking is just plain boring. Lets face it; the jelly donut from your favorite bakery is going to beat the bag of carrots you brought from home every time. If nothing else, the uptick in adult and childhood obesity shows that food companies need to change how they design and market healthy snacks from something we should eat to something that we want to eat.

While not selling snacks, Healthy Choice’s new ad campaign captures this idea perfectly. Last week the New York Times published an article that quoted Healthy Choice’s brand director, Jenn Freeman, explaining that they decided to focus on dieter’s pain because “consumers are telling us over and over again that they’re tired of dieting, tired of deprivation, tired of being irritable”.  It is the idea of deprivation that is key. Instead of feeling forced to eat something “healthy”, i.e. juice or drum sticks, people want to be able to have something that is as luxurious as a entire Chicken Margherita meal and have it be healthy too.

This idea of luxurious health applies to snacks as well. Consumers want to be able to snack on something that feels like a treat but is still healthy. That doesn’t mean you can go crazy marketing a line of healthy potato chips – the other 91% of us know better. However if you can find the right balance between healthy and decadence, then you will have found the sweet spot – literally.