‘These are conscious meal replacements’: Snacking becoming the norm

By Hal Conick

- Last updated on GMT

Move over meals; snacking is starting to become more dominant, says International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association,
Move over meals; snacking is starting to become more dominant, says International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association,

Related tags Snack food Meal

There’s a “macrodynamic shift” happening in how we eat as a culture, according to a report from The International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association, and snacking has become a part of daily life.

“With lines between snacks and meals blurring, consumers have increasingly been shifting their snacking behavior, opting for healthier choices and better portion control,”​ said the IDDBA’s Snacking Opportunities: Building Better Snacks report​, done in association with The Hartman Group.

“Snacking occasions, behaviors and needs are characterized by highly flexible rules and structures that are shaping how shoppers think about fresh perimeter categories.”

Snacking makes eating more flexible, the report said, allowing consumers to better meet their own individual needs.

Meals turning into snacks

Alan Hiebert, senior education coordinator at IDDBA, told BakeryandSnacks much of what his organization has researched is meals, which he acknowledged have seen some huge changes.

“The vast majority, somewhere, depending on what you’re looking at, between 60% and 90% of snacking occasions are at home,”​ he said. “It’s not like they’re sitting down and eating at home. It’s not like you’re just snacking because you’re on the go. These are conscious meal replacements.”

The IDDBA report said 50% of eating occasions are snacks, with 37% of people saying they purchase snacks in advance so they can always have something on demand. In addition, the younger crowd is becoming more interested in snacking, with 39% of millennials never turning down free food.

How we snack

How we snack

According to the Snacking Opportunities report:

  • 73% of snacking is driven by the desire to fulfill unsatisfied needs
  • 36% of snacking is emotionally driven
  • 23% said they use snacks to “stay alert”
  • 28% of snacking is culturally driven
  • 23% use snacking for discovery, entertainment or intellectual interest

What does this mean for snack manufacturers and retailers? Hiebert said they are seeing a lot more products being offered in smaller portions.

“That’s a big reason why people snack,”​ he said. “They don’t want to deal with portion size, so they snack instead of having a meal where they tend to lose some of that [portion control]. People find it easier to control portions, partially because they aren’t sitting at a table. There’s no pressure with others sitting there eating to finish what’s on the plate.”

“There’s a lot of baggage that comes with meals.”

Staying healthy, making new discoveries

The snacking opportunity report said 61% are opting for healthier snacks, while 47% said they enjoy trying new or different kinds of cuisines. Hiebert said people have been talking about how they want their foods to be functional in some way for 10 to 15 years, but now the younger generation is “really taking that to heart”.

“Younger generations have really kind of embraced that and we’re moving into a new era where a lot more people are aware of the functionally of certain foods​,” he said. “The definition of snacking is no longer mindlessly shoving potato chips in your face as you’re watching TV.”

In addition to becoming healthier, snacking has also become more expansive. Hiebert said nearly a quarter of snacking occasions are used to explore different flavors. This is, at least in part, driven by the ability to buy smaller portions.

“[People are] using that to try something new,”​ he said. “It’s smaller so it’s less expensive. People are not buying a whole bunch of something, but just trying something quickly.”

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