Secret snacking: Most Brits feel guilty, finds Canadean

By Anne Bruce

- Last updated on GMT

Secret snacking - large numbers of consumers snack in secret, particularly in the 25-34 age group, finds Canadean
Secret snacking - large numbers of consumers snack in secret, particularly in the 25-34 age group, finds Canadean

Related tags Europe Snack food Uk

Many British consumers feel guilty about snacking and even more associate it with ‘breaking’ a diet plan, research finds.

Some 68% of UK dieters ‘break’ their diets with snacking, while 44% feel guilty afterwards and decide to keep snacking a secret from their friends, colleagues or partners, according to research from Canadean.

The survey of 1,642 adults showed diets that banned snacking went against ingrained eating habits and most people will at times find themselves relapsing into old habits – such as snacking, said Jonathan Khosravani, research analyst at Canadean.

“Most diets see snacking as one of the main reasons for weight gain and therefore ban or severely restrict snacking in-between meals. This makes UK consumers fear that they will be seen as a failure when they don’t stick to the rules of the diet and slip in a snack.”

Dieting boom – do snacks have a place?

The survey, conducted in November, showed some 32% of people aged 25-34 said they had been on a diet in the last six months, making that age group the biggest dieters.  Only 18% of 18-24 year olds surveyed had been on a diet in the last six months, and only 21% of those aged 55 plus. 

The UK Snacking market

• The snacking market is fast moving and prime for targeting, growing at a CAGR of 4.1% from 2013-2016, versus a growth rate of 3.6% for meals & meal components.

• Within the snacking market, bakery and cereal products are the largest market by volume, the top three segments within this are cakes, pastries & sweet pies and cookies (sweet biscuits).

• The US provides the largest snacking market overall by value at US$118 billion, followed by China at US$62 billion.

• Western European consumers enjoy the largest per capita snacking volumes at 68.8kg per head in 2013.

• Older consumers aged 55 and over, have the largest share of the snacking market by volume at 22.1%.

From the Canadean report ‘Snacking – understanding existing trends, capitalizing on new trends and looking to counteract inhibitors in the market’, May 2014.

The results also suggested that women were twice as likely to diet as men - 32% versus 16% of men cited as dieting in the last six months.

The 25-34 age group was most likely to hide its snacking habits, the research showed, with a majority (58%) disguising their snacking or snacking in secret.

Men were most likely to be secret snackers, with 46% saying guilt led them to snack in secret, compared to 43% of women who said that they felt guilty over snacking.

However, European Snacks Association ESA director general Sebastian Emig said snacks had a valid role in the daily diet when eaten in moderation.

A purge diet is less about the food you have eaten if you break the diet and more about guilt about having broken a code of conduct. So if you were on an unusual diet that excluded apples you would feel guilty if you ate an apple​,” he told

Fun and pleasure

“A ‘snack’ may be sharing a bowl of crisps with friends at a party or eating a handful of nuts in the late afternoon hours when a protein push is needed; hence with such a conscious and informed choice consumers are using our products. I would not talk about guilt – I would talk about fun and pleasure,”​ Emig said.

ESA figures indicated the UK population consumed the greatest volume of snacks out of the European nations but by per capita consumption, the Dutch were the greatest European consumers of snacks.

“Snacking habits vary across the European countries and cultures. In the UK snacks tend to be small individual bags, eaten on the hoof. In Spain or France you might snack on almonds as an aperitif, and in Germany you might share a bag of crisps in the TV room,”​ he said.

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