LAS VEGAS —  Consumers are looking for more than just tasty treats in their snacks. They’re looking for healthy attributes, and the No. 1 benefit they are seeking these days is energy, said Suzy Badaracco, president of Culinary Tides Inc., who spoke Saturday at the IBIEducate session “How Health and Wellness Trends Influence Snacking and Bakery Trends.”

“Whatever they do choose as a snack, they’ll feel less guilty about it if they feel it has some benefit for them,” she said. “So whether it gives them energy or it’s healthy or it’s lighter, they’ll feel less guilty about that. Energy directly is the No. 1 benefit that keeps coming up in research.”

No. 2 is cognitive function, which is an umbrella for foods that can help with stress, poor sleep, anxiety and depression caused by all the troubles consumers have lived through the last few years, including COVID-19 and inflation. 

Ms. Badaracco explained that because cognitive function is a relatively new benefit being sought in food, consumers are not sure what ingredients or minerals to look for, so they must rely on packaging messages. Educating the public takes time, although consumers will eventually learn what they’re looking for. She pointed to the yogurt industry, which helped educate the public about probiotics.

“The yogurt industry is a great example of how they made that connection with consumers of digestion and probiotics,” she said. “The yogurt industry did that amazingly well in about a year.”

The biggest media consumer driven issue in health and wellness is obesity followed by cognitive function, Ms. Badaracco said.

“Interestingly, immune function is not one of the top two concerns right now,” she said. “It was during the height of COVID, but now it’s not. Obesity is No. 1 because after two years in lockdown, we’re all like, ‘Oh, I have to get back to work. I have to get back to conferences.’ ”