Snacking is now an all-day occasion. Consumers opt for these small refreshments as substitutes for large meals as well as filling the hours between breakfast, lunch and dinner. Statista numbers show that 32 percent of Americans skip or replace at least one meal with snacks, and 43 percent eat three meals as well as snacks, according to a July 2018 survey. Only 4 percent say they don’t snack at all.
What consumers choose to snack on has been evolving along with a snacking culture. While once the domain of traditional salted snacks and sweet treats, healthy is driving sales. More than 80 percent of operators offer products they consider fitting one of the several definitions of healthy, according to research from Automatic Merchandiser. Healthy, as a category represents 10.4 percent of micro market product revenues, the fourth largest percentage after beverages, food and snacks. It is something consumers want, but it's not all that they want.
David Grotto, MS, RDN, LDN, senior nutrition manager, specialty channels and frozen foods, Kellogg, said, “Consumers are balancing health and indulgence, with healthy/natural products being selected at similar rates to satisfying cravings, treats and rewards.”
Malcolm McAlpine, business manager branded snacks, foodservice and vending, with Mondelēz International sees a similar consumption pattern. “There has been an equal amount of growth for both indulgent and ‘better-for-you’, but the bigger segment is indulgent,” McAlpine said in a recent Automatic Merchandiser article. Interestingly, McAlpine adds that some of the factors that consumers consider about healthy items are transferring over when they choose a treat.
“There is a shift in focus from calories to products which revolve around the key attributes of organic, fewer artificial additives, sustainable or simple and natural,” said McAlpine.
Elizabeth Mitas Vegas, industry advisor, strategic alliances, Alliance for a Healthier Generation, has said that over the last 5 years, there’s been a lot of personalization in diets, which is impacting what snacks are selling. Consumers are trying different diets, different foods, but then listening to their bodies to see if it’s working for them. Grotto calls this approach the “diet for me” where consumers are looking to create an individualized eating plan, requiring a high variety of products, including those they look for in micro markets.
While healthy has come to the mainstream, indulgent items remain important to consumers. These trends mean it is important to keep the right balance of best-selling products, from the food cooler to the beverage cooler and everywhere in between.