The market researcher said snacks with health-related claims are among the fastest growing snack launches, with "low-", "no" and "reduced allergen" claims accounting for 46% of total new snack product launches in the US in 2017, an increase of 30% over 2013.
Time of day
The report indicated the time of day has a strong impact on what consumers turn to for a snack.
Snackers want to start the day on a healthy note and tend to choose snacks that are healthy (29%), light (23%) and energizing (23%).
Afternoon pick-me-up's comprise of snacks that are healthy (26%), sweet (23%) and energizing (22%), while sweet (30%), comforting (25%) and indulgent (22%) snacks are more sought after at night.
Health in hand with indulgence
However, Mintel said there is still room for life's indulgences.
Research showed that 50% Americans like to treat themselves although only 28% reported that taste is more important than health.
"Even health-focused snacks should appeal with messages about enjoyment and indulgence,” said Beth Bloom, associate director of US food and drink reports at Mintel.
Stress-busting snacking is a popular pastime, with 37% consumers snacking to take a break and 24% to relieve stress.
Driving salty snacking
Research also found the types of salty snacks consumers eat depends on the occasion: for instance, 62% of consumers enjoy popcorn while watching TV or a movie at home.
Sales of salty snacks have grown 30% since 2011, reaching $11.2bn in 2016, with growth primarily driven by innovation in the meat snacks and popcorn categories, reported Mintel.
Meat snack sales estimated around $3.3bn in 2016, up 51% from 2011, while sales of popcorn increased by 39% to reach $2.4bn.
“Despite competition from other snack foods, the salty snack market continues to grow at a steady rate. The benefits of meat snacks and the convenience and health halo of ready-to-eat popcorn are driving growth; however, this success is also due to increased flavor and format innovation,” said Caleb Bryant, senior foodservice analyst at Mintel.
“Brands are demonstrating that popcorn can be a platform for any flavor, with sweet flavors gaining popularity,” he said.