At-home screen time drives savory snack sales, a trend predicted to stay

June 17, 2021

After years of snacking softness, the pandemic gave snack foods a boost. Consumers turned to snacks to cope with new realities, increased screen time and more at-home entertainment activities, reports The NPD Group. Savory snack foods, specifically, benefited from a pandemic lift.

These behaviors have stickiness and staying power, with a strong outlook for chips, ready-to-eat popcorn and other salty items. Indulgent treats like chocolate candy and ice cream got the most significant lift early in the pandemic, but increases were temporary, according to NPD’s latest The Future of Snacking report.

With little opportunity to leave home during the pandemic, digital content streaming, video gameplay and other entertainment helped consumers keep busy. Based on NPD market research, consumers bought newer and larger TVs all throughout 2020 and total consumer spending on video gaming continued to break records, reaching $18.6 billion in the last quarter of 2020.

As consumers spent more time in the house with families and roommates, snacks played a pivotal role at movie and game nights. Ready-to-eat popcorn is an excellent example of a go-to snack for movie and game nights. The savory snack was among the top growing snack foods in terms of consumption in 2020, and its surge expects to continue. The category is forecast to grow 8.3% in 2023 versus 2020 levels, making it the fastest-growing snack food, NPD’s snacking research finds.

“A time-tested movie night favorite, popcorn was well-positioned to capitalize on increases in digital streaming as consumers looked to streaming to pass the time and relieve their boredom,” said NPD food analyst Darren Seifer.

“We found that mood changes impact the snacks people consume," he continued, "and ready-to-eat popcorn is eaten frequently as a tonic for boredom.”  


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