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Spherical snacks, upscale nuggets, and healthfulness: Snacking category broadens as consumers consume more

By Stephen DANIELLS , 18-Mar-2014

Spherical snacks, upscale nuggets, and healthfulness: Snacking category broadens as consumers consume more

A consumer’s definition of ‘snack’ is broadening to encompass beverages and foodservice items, and snacking at least twice a day is up, according to new research from foodservice research and consulting firm Technomic.

Data presented in the Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report indicated that 50% of consumers indicate that healthfulness is very important to them when choosing a snack, while 45% of consumers are replacing one or two daily meals with a snack.

About 80% of snacks are sourced from retail stores (including both packaged foods and foodservice areas), said the report, while 20% are purchased at restaurants, a figure which represents a good opportunity for the foodservice sector, said  Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President of Technomic, Inc.

"Snacking occasions represent a growth channel for restaurant operators," he said. "The retail market is aggressively promoting snacks, but there's plenty of room for restaurants to expand their snack programs and grab share. By providing more innovative, healthy and easily portable snacks, and boosting variety, restaurants can position themselves to increase incremental traffic and sales—particularly among a younger customer base."

An expanding category

The findings echo statements by Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive and practice leader at IRI, who said that snacking habits had evolved and other categories were benefiting.

“Last year was a competitive shark tank. The snacking universe is evolving and we see how that expanded universe is having impact on what we would call core or traditional snacking categories,” she told our sister site BakeryandSnacks.com at Snaxpo 2014 in Dallas, Texas.

Last year, dollar sales of core US snacks were up 2.8%, but sales volume declined by 0.8%, according to IRI data. However, the macro-snack category that included items like breakfast drinks, smoothies, soup and even hard-boiled eggs was up 0.9% in volume terms and also strong in dollar terms with a 2.2% increase.

“It’s true that they [macro snacks] took a little bit of a bite out of core snacking by what we saw with the trends… The data is an indicator that consumers are pursuing some of these other categories a little bit more than core snacks.”

However, she said that collectively the data was positive because snacking was up and the category had expanded.

Key trends

According to the Technomic report, portability is increasingly vital with 60% of today's consumers citing this as a key part of their decision, compared with 55% a year earlier.

In addition, 32% of consumers say they have broadened their definition of ‘snack’ over the past two years with consumers now including more types of food in their snack mindset.

Key trends identified by Technomic for the foodservice space include: Spherical snacks with both sweet and savory flavors, from Japanese teriyaki balls to cheesecake lollipops; Upscale chicken and fish nuggets with a revamping with premium breading, proteins, sauces, preparation methods and more; and more snacking options on bar menus.

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