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Consumers' expectations and needs towards healthy cereal based snacks: An exploratory study among Irish adults

Emily C. Crofton (Institute of Food and Health, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland)
Anne Markey (Department of Agri‐Business and Rural Development, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland)
Amalia G.M. Scannell (Institute of Food and Health, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 2 August 2013

Issue publication date: 2 August 2013




The aim of this paper is to examine consumers' perceptions and expectations towards healthy snacks, with particular emphasis on the cereal snack market, and to explore new areas of opportunities for healthy snacks by identifying consumer needs and wants.


Six focus group discussions were conducted to generate attitudinal data across three different adult consumer groups.


Results revealed that consumers expected a healthy snack to contain low levels of calories, fat, salt and sugar, and to contain high levels of whole‐grain, oats, bran, nuts, seeds, pulses and fruit, e.g. blueberries, cranberries, gogi berries. Additionally, healthy snacks were required to be free from any artificial colours, sweeteners and flavours. Major factors encouraging healthy snack consumption included reduced risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart burn and bloating. Conversely, perceived taste, portion size, the lack of available convenient nutritional snacks, accessibility and confusion over the credibility of the “healthy product” tag were the main factors preventing healthy consumption in the adult population examined. Consumers expressed a desire for a wider choice of filling snacks with specific health benefits for a variety of usage occasions, particularly those with associated health claims such as “high fibre”, “omega 3 for mental health” and “reduces cholesterol”.

Research limitations/implications

The study sample size was not extensive and was limited to a small geographical spread of Dublin and Meath on the East coast of Ireland. A more representative sample of the entire Irish population could be the basis for further research.

Practical implications

These findings increase the understanding of current expectations of the Irish adult consumer regarding healthy snack foods. They also highlight the potential new product development opportunities for snack food manufacturers to explore.


The present paper focuses specifically on healthy snacks and contributes to a limited amount of existing literature by providing consumer research for the development of new healthy snack foods.



Crofton, E.C., Markey, A. and Scannell, A.G.M. (2013), "Consumers' expectations and needs towards healthy cereal based snacks: An exploratory study among Irish adults", British Food Journal, Vol. 115 No. 8, pp. 1130-1148.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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