A snack by any other name — healthy, macro, vegan — is still a snack, isn’t it?
So-called healthy snacks are crowding store shelves and being pitched as an alternative to the greasy, salty chips loved by so many. Among the latest are the macronutrient variety, which makers say include nutritional building blocks of proteins, carbs, and fats.
One of the latest, founded last year, is Macro Snacks. The Charlotte, North Carolina-based company has a new line of gluten-free, vegan macronutrient chips with flavors like cheddar cheese and sour cream and onion. Macro Snacks recently signed on with delivery service SnackNation, which will add Macro Snacks’ products to one of its monthly subscription packages.
Macro Snacks claims to provide high protein, low carbohydrate munches that follow the USDA/FDA-recommended daily ratio of macronutrients: 45% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 25% fat. The crisps are based on a pea, chickpea and soy mix.
“Lots of snacks focus on high protein and low carbs. But we wanted to provide the necessary ratio of all the macronutrients in one,” founder and Chief Executive Justin Wiesehan told Karma. “We want them to taste good and also provide the health benefits. We want to use the snack as education.”
Sounds great. But personal fitness trainer Kishan Patel recommends satisfying a craving for a bite to eat with a Greek yogurt and not a bag of macronutrient food.
“I wouldn’t recommend it because other foods are there and they are easier to get,” Patel told Karma. “Macronutrients are based on numbers. Though the snack follows a standard macronutrient breakdown, it may not necessarily fit the breakdown of individual goals.”
Even so, the macronutrient section of the industry is getting larger, with companies including Purely Elizabeth, provider of gluten-free granola and oatmeal bars, and MadeGood, maker of whole-grain fruit bars. The nutritional snacks market is expected to grow from $23 billion in 2018 to $32.9 billion by 2025, slightly more than 5% annually.
Some nutritionists aren’t buying. Not everyone will see the same benefits because people process and absorb nutrients at different rates, Beatriz Torrejon Romani, a nutritionist based in the Bronx, New York, told Karma.
“These chips can guarantee the intake of protein and other macronutrients but they can’t guarantee the absorption of nutrients in the body,” she said. “That depends on each individual’s biological make-up. You may have resistance to certain elements that these snacks don’t put into account.”
“It’s a lot of marketing that we see with these concepts and companies,” she said.
Wiesehan understands that everyone’s metabolic system works differently but believes the product has its ability to help the consumer reach his or her nutritional goals.
“Millennials are snacking more and people don’t have time to buy or make multiple products to hit their macronutrient goals,” Wiesehan said. “So we made this snack because it makes it convenient for them. It’s about convenience.”
And people do like the convenience of getting their protein, fats and carbs in one bag. Research and Markets estimated the global macronutrient-heavy ingredients market could reach $48.77 billion in 2025.
“We saw these macronutrient snacks gaining popularity, with their more organic, higher protein, plant-based products” in the past year, Jonathan Mike, a professor in the Exercise Science and Sports Performance department at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona.
“People can get carried away with these snacks thinking they are equivalent to consuming anything else, which is not true,” Mike said. “It’s a matter of being educated on the goals you want to achieve.”
Mike also prefers yogurt, egg whites, or organic beef jerkys for protein. “There are hundreds of other options than these snacks. Macro Snacks shouldn’t be called healthy snacks or alternatives to the macronutrients that people should abide by.”
And yet Wiesehan believes that his products stand out from competitors like Quest Nutrition’s chips and True Food’s puffs.
“The whole protein, vegan, organic, all-natural snack market is our competition,” Weisehan said. “And yet we differentiate because we aren’t just high protein. The high-protein snacks have crowded the market, and are overkilling it. Our balanced macronutrient approach is optimal for the consumer.”
Romani believes that consumers need to recognize that getting the necessary macronutrients depends on each individual’s needs.
“People from certain parts of the world need different levels of macronutrients,” Romani said. “Keep it simple. Best thing to do is follow the individual body’s science.”