In recent years snack food occasions and consumption have been growing, but the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the demand for snacks among U.S. consumers even more.
Whether it’s for a nutritious treat, comfort from stress, or a quick meal, U.S. consumers increasingly are turning to fruits, nuts, and ready-to-eat snack foods throughout the day, NPD pointed out.
Over the past five years, Americans added 25 between-meal snacking occasions per capita, from 505 between-meal snacking occasions per capita in 2015 to 530 in 2020, and consumption of snack foods at meals increased from 21% of eatings in 2010 to 26% in 2020, according to NPD’s “Eating Patterns in America,” an annual compilation of the company’s daily tracking of the who, what, when, where, why, and how of U.S. consumers’ eating behaviors.
Snacking and snack food consumption follow a daily rhythm in most U.S. households with better-for-you snack foods, like fruit or yogurt, being eaten in the morning; more savory snacks, like potato chips or tortilla chips, eaten at lunch; and more sweet snacks, like chocolate candy and cookies, in the evening. Taste, satiety, being a favorite, and easy to eat are table stakes throughout the day when it comes to consumers snacking and selecting snack foods, and health-driven motivations give way to satiety as the day progresses.
Although snacking was already on the rise prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the pandemic did accelerate snacking and snack food consumption. Having sufficient snack foods on hand during the pandemic is important to 37% of consumers. These consumers’ households are well-stocked on salty snacks and frozen sweets more than other items. Also, in many cases, the more snack food packages in the home, the more frequently the item is consumed, which tends to be especially true of certain types of snack foods. For example, consumers who have five or more packages of crackers or salty snacks consume those foods at higher rates than consumers with fewer packages in their home.
“America is a nation of snackers and we’re no longer as averse to snacking as we once were. Instead, snacking is viewed as a way to have a quick bite in between meals or as a convenient meal side,” said Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. “Snacking is woven into the fabric of our daily lives, and this way of thinking provides endless opportunities for food and snack marketers.”