“Snacking is a mainstream trend that has gathered force over time” with more American’s snacking between meals and even as meals, forcing “retail and food service purveyors to cater to this trend with an increased number and variety of ‘snackable’ items,” according to a report released by Packaged Facts in November.
Specifically, market research conducted by Dupont found more than 86% of Americans snack daily, with the average number of snacks consumed rising 47% to 2.8 snacks per day in 2014 compared to 1.9 in 2010. A deeper dive reveals 51% of snacking consumers eat three or more snacks per day and 49% eat one to two snacks per day, Dupont added.
The rise in snacking partly is due to time-crunched consumers eating on-the-go, but also the trend traces to the increase of internet and information connectivity, Packaged Facts reveals.
“Having 24-7 connectivity – anytime, anywhere – has influenced not only the way consumers shop, but also their approach to food. This type of connectivity encourages consumers to take ‘light bites’ of experiences around them – opting for snapshots or highlights rather than taking time to invest in the full experience,” according to the Packaged Facts report written by Kaleidoscope Research Consulting.
Snacking also is an outgrowth of the trend to eat several small meals throughout the day, according to Packaged Facts. It notes that in 2014, 38.5% of survey respondents indicated that they eat multiple small meals instead of three larger meals. This is up from a third of respondents 10 years earlier.
Data from Dupont supports this idea that snacking is an all-day affair with 18% of survey respondents in 2014 eating snacks early morning, 37% mid-morning, 68% in the afternoon, 62% in the evening and 46% late night.
For the most part, when people eat their mini-meals is flexible, with only 9% of people planning four small scheduled meals and 25% saying they eat several small unscheduled meals and snacks.
Because eating multiple small meals per day is associated with a healthier diet, consumers are selecting healthier or better-for-you foods, according to Packaged Facts.
But data from Dupont reveals the time of day influences how healthy the snacks selected are. For example, 74% of early morning snacks are healthy – a figure that decreases over the course of the day with only 60% of snacks considered healthy in the afternoon and 27% considered healthy in the late evening.
How restaurants are adapting
“At restaurants, snacking is alive and well,” offering establishments “the added bonus that they can draw in hungry diners at any hour of the day, not necessarily during regular meal times,” according to Packaged Facts.
Snacks also are a win-win for restaurants and cost-conscious patrons because they are offered at a lower price point that makes consumers happy, but also at a higher price per ounce than typical entrees, which benefits business, Packaged Facts said. In addition, snacks can double as appetizers or sharable meal options.
“Our survey results suggest that smaller portions made for sharing can be a full-service restaurant strategy enjoying niche appeal” with 30% of full-service restaurant users saying they would be “strongly motivated” or “somewhat motivated” by “smaller portions made for sharing” to try a new entrée.
Fast food chains also are tapping into consumer desire for snacks by converting into snack menues the “value menus” that offered a la carte options that became popular during the recession. This metamorphosis highlights the important role of the low price point in the acceptance of snack menus, according to Packaged Facts.
Retailers access snackers through food service
Of retailers, convenience stores may be best positioned to capitalize on the snack trend because of their increased accessibility and speed of service, Packaged Facts said. It notes that “speed is of the essence” for c-store shoppers with 60% of them entering and exiting the store within 10 minutes and 30% describing their last visit to a c-store as “in a hurry.”
Big box retailers, including Walmart and Target, are trying to get into the action by opening “express” formats of their larger format stores. Supermarkets are increasingly offering pre-made snacks that can be consumed in the store.
CPG marketers respond to snackers with packaging
Major packaged food marketers also are offering snackers convenient packaging, smaller servings and healthier foods, according to Packaged Facts.
“The emergence of convenient packaging formats has made it easier for consumers to eat while on-the-go. Single-serving tubs, cups or bags help snackers control both portion sizes and calorie counts,” which allows them to hit two trends at once: snacking and healthy foods, Packaged Facts notes.
Examples of brands using these strategies include The Coca-Cola Company offering “mini” cans of Coke (read more HERE), and Emerald Nut’s Breakfast On The Go snack mixes.