Protein-rich appetizers and snacks fuel all-day sales

Photograph: Shutterstock

The jury is in—U.S. consumers have a growing appetite for all things protein. They are incorporating more and more protein into their diets, as they see it as an essential nutrient to maintain healthy weight and high energy levels according to the 2016 IFC Food and Health Survey.  And while the three main meals of the day have been more protein-rich, in recent years, the trend is catching up to snacks and appetizers.

In fact, more than half (52%) of consumers are finding high-protein snacks appealing, according to Technomic’s 2019 Center of the Plate: Poultry Consumer Trend Report. Additionally, Technomic’s 2018Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report found that 34% of consumers say they are snacking healthier than they were two years ago, with 25% planning to snack healthier in the year ahead. Consumers also rated “high in protein” and “energizing” as the top two attributes of what they consider to be healthy food, Technomic’s Snacking report found.

When it comes to available proteins, 78% of consumers believe that chicken is healthy or very healthy, according to Technomic’s Poultry report. Chicken is also highly craveable—especially the breaded variety, and the Poultry report noted that chicken strips/nuggets are the leading preparation of chicken at limited-service restaurants, up 23.3% year-over-year. At full-service restaurants, they’re up 32.2% in the same time frame.

Operators can take advantage of consumers’ interest in high-protein snacks that are craveable by swapping out traditional appetizer ingredients with protein-forward options. For example, restaurants could serve a twist on nachos by replacing tortilla chips with an innovative product like Tyson® Chicken Chips. With Ranch and Smoky Barbecue chip-flavored breading and their triangle shape, they satisfy consumers’ crunchy potato chip cravings while offering protein diners are looking for.

As snacks or appetizers, Tyson® Chicken Chips can be served with dips and celery slices or loaded with avocado, sour cream and cilantro as a protein-rich version of traditional nachos. They can even be used to top a Caesar salad as an effortless and satisfying appetizer-portion salad.

If operators aren’t sure that their guests are ready for such an innovative take on functional fare, consider that Technomic’s 2018Snack Occasion Consumer Trend Report found that 38% of consumers (and 57% of millennial consumers) say their definition of snacks has changed and expanded over the past two years. Such a menu item could pique customers’ interest and keep them coming back while offering operators menu flexibility to keep trying different pairings and preparations.

While consumer demographics may play into guests’ willingness to try a unique menu item, interest in more protein is across the board—44% of consumers ages 18 to 34, and 40% of those over age 35, specifically look for types of food that are high in protein, according to Technomic’s 2018Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report. By menuing more protein-rich options, operators can appeal to those diners who are specifically looking for those dishes. Visit to learn more about these products and download the culinary guide.

This post is sponsored by Tyson Foods, Inc.


Exclusive Content


Why Wingstop isn't afraid of Popeyes' chicken wings

The Bottom Line: The fast-casual wing chain says its sales improve when another brand pushes the product. Here’s why that might be.


Mendocino Farms masters a meaty Philly cheesesteak sandwich—without the meat

Behind the Menu: The fast casual uses a mushroom-based meat alternative for its Philly Shroomsteak Sandwich, a new menu item targeted to flexitarians, not just vegans.


Pay hike for couriers shakes up food delivery in NYC

Customers are paying more, and couriers are working less. What it all means for restaurants is still unclear, but some fear it could get ugly.