Shoppers Reach for Snacks

From wellness benefits to added protein and portability, snacks are trending among customers seeking solutions for eating occasions.

Customers are reaching for snack foods more than ever, providing opportunities for retailers.

Once seen as guilty pleasures, snack foods have and will continue to evolve to be eating occasion solutions for a nation of consumers constantly on-the-go, reported The NPD Group in its recently published “Future of Snacking” report.

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Americans consumed nearly 386 billion of ready-to-eat snack foods last year, with the vast majority of those eaten between main meals; and snack food growth is happening at most dayparts with more use at meals and as meal replacements.

“Snack foods continue to evolve both as between-meal snacks and as part of main meals,” said David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor. “Each of these snack food roles is changing in different ways in reaction to Americans’ desire for balance, portable snack foods, and holistic wellness.”

Snack food needs forecast to grow in the near term embody wellness benefits, like snacks with more protein, portability, like single-serve snack foods that fit into busy lives, unique and enjoyment, like unique flavor mash-ups, according to NPD’s “Future of Snacking” report, which shows what snack food consumption will look like in the future and the opportunities for growth over the next five years. Even indulgent snack foods are staging a comeback by walking a line between health and enjoyment. Low calorie, high protein ice cream is an example of a beneficial snack food. Brands that support moderation as a rationale to indulge are also benefiting, like thinner versions of cookies.

The report also found that consumers snack food choices aren’t limited strictly to flavor. Emerging attributes for snack food consumers are snacks that encompass uniqueness and sensory elements such as texture, heat and aromatics.

“Snacking is no longer just about eating when you’re bored or eating for additional sustenance,” said Portalatin. “Today and in the future, snacking is about solving small problems for consumers, and those problems present opportunities for food marketers across a variety of dayparts and needs.”