Snacking: What’s New and What to Do

Snacking has proliferated in recent years. Nielsen reports that the individual snacking category has reached $33 billion in the US, and compared to the previous year, annual household spending on individually-packaged snacks increased 1.1%. Moreover, the Hartman Group released findings that 91 percent of consumers now snack multiple times throughout the day and snacking accounts for 50 percent of all eating.

Where is all this growth coming from? It’s not much of a stretch to say American society is more fast-paced than it ever has been. With this understanding in mind, it’s also not very difficult to imagine a greater need for convenient, on-the-go food options.

The Hartman Group argues, “Snacking has emerged onto the landscape as the most significant food and beverage occasion. Yet many companies continue to market to what we imagine when we think of meals and snacks: the bowl of cereal, the lunchtime sandwich, a quick bag of chips, and the family to share the meat and potatoes. However, by speaking only to these images, companies are missing out on new opportunities emerging from the dynamic changes taking place in American culture (in general) and our eating culture (specifically).”

It’s time more food brands take snacking seriously and react to it innovatively.

In a recent ChefsBest podcast, senior brand manager of the protein snacking group at Conagra, Adam Beane, and VP of sales for Thanasi Foods, Erik Havlick, dived deep into the snacking trend. Adam explained, “Snacking overall is really blowing up…. We’re seeing consumers report eating anywhere from 3 to 5 times in addition to what we would consider the normal breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals, which means there is a huge opportunity for snacking brands and snacking companies to win those occasions with the consumers.”

For food brands looking to smartly invest in this growing trend, here are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind.

Do invest in categories that show the most potential.

Nielsen reports that the items experiencing the greatest sales growth are individual bars, jerky, and individual cookies/crackers. Additionally, dairy (22%), bars (17%), and confections (17%) account for the largest dollar share of on-the-go snacking.

Moreover, IRI reports that veggie forms of snacks – beet root chips, for instance – have driven substantial growth in the snacking category. Some superfoods, meat snacks, and thins and bites have also become more popular.

Do make health call-outs.

Nielsen found that health claims significantly drive sales. The health claims that are associated with the greatest climb in sales are non-GMO, free from artificial colors/flavors, and no/reduced sugar.

Don’t overlook the importance of taste.

With 90.6% of consumers choosing snacks based on tastes they will enjoy, IRI reports that almost all consumers agree taste is paramount. Hence, it is vital food brands amply invest in product development as well as third-party sensory feedback.

Don’t skimp on packaging design.

52% of consumers believe packaging and product label influence their snack choice, according to IRI. With 67% of consumers more likely to purchase a ChefsBest award winner, ChefsBest’s third-party taste endorsement is one potentially high-return option for perking up your packaging.

Do look for foods that can go from meal ingredient to snack status.

Duke’s Meat, for instance, took a popular flavor of refrigerated sausages, Andouille, and translated it into a snacking format, explains ChefsBest podcast guest Erik Havlick. Reformatting a traditionally meal item into a snack is one way food brands can innovate in the snacking category.

Through focusing on high-growth categories, making health-callouts, prioritizing taste, investing in packaging, and thinking innovatively about what foods can go from a meal to snack format, food brands can increase their chances of benefiting from investments in the growing category of snacks.