CHICAGO – Product developers should understand the occasions when people snack, said Barbara Katz, president of HealthFocus International. She gave examples of how a company may use certain ingredients to create snacks for three specific occasions in a March 20 session at the Institute of Food Technologists’ Wellness 2014 conference in Chicago.

For a small meal occasion, people may seek satiety in a snack, be it yogurt, a protein shake or a sandwich, Ms. Katz said. Whole grains are one ingredient option.

For a better-for-you occasion, people may want a snack to fill a need, such as energy before an exercise workout, she said. Protein and fiber may work well in a product. Snack examples include nuts, dried fruit or a nutrition bar.

For an indulgent occasion, snack examples are ice cream, baked foods or a salty snack. Formulators should consider premium ingredients as well as natural ingredients, Ms. Katz said.

Ms. Katz said many consumers still associate snacking as a cause for overeating. Healthier snacks thus may present an opportunity, she said. Data from HealthFocus International show 57% of consumers believe reductions in such areas as fat or sugar make a snack healthier.

Consumers have a perception that other attributes make a snack healthier, Ms. Katz said. They include reduced or no preservatives (52%), natural ingredients (52%), no additives (50%) and recognizable ingredients (50%).

Lu Ann Williams, head of research at Innova Market Insights, also spoke about how ingredients may improve a snack’s health attributes. She said ancient grains, including millet, quinoa and chia, experienced a 69% compound annual growth rate in savory snack launches from 2009-13.

Snack launches featuring peanuts, almonds or walnuts are growing in number, too. Thanks to drying technologies, new shapes and new sizes, more fruit inclusions are showing up in snacks.

Snacks with protein from soy, wheat, vegetables or casein have become more popular in the United States, Ms. Williams said. Bison and salmon even have appeared in protein bars.

Ms. Williams said companies should avoid promoting low sodium in a snack because it will influence consumers negatively.

“Nothing says no taste more than no salt,” she said.