Three-quarters of the respondents are willing to try new styles of snacks and unfamiliar flavors, especially when pinned against ones they already know and love. Another 68% said they prefer a plethora of flavor options.
Only a third said they would rather see ‘a few’ flavors, and only 2% want just one.
Frito-Lay North America worked with Morning Consult, a global data firm, to poll more than 2k adults online over three days in August for its annual trends analysis. Results carry a margin of error of two percentage points.
Frito-Lay previously released the results of similar snacking surveys during the National Football League's Superbowl in February and for the summer season. The company told us these polls are "just one example of how we track trends and the type of data used to inform our product development team's work to create snacks that address consumer wants."
“What Americans choose to eat has become a complex mishmash of cultures and spices well beyond ethnic or traditional silos,” said Christine Cioffe, senior VP of research and development at PepsiCo.
Regions affect taste preferences and availability
Tastes also differ depending on where consumers live. Two-thirds confirmed their location affects their flavor preferences, especially younger consumers, with more than eight of 10 Gen Z respondents saying so, compared to just over half of baby boomers.
Additionally, 36% of respondents reported being ‘more adventurous’ with their food choices today than they were five years ago – but that number jumps to over 50% in Atlanta, Georgia, and Houston, Texas.
The latter city is particularly diverse demographically: just under half of the population is white, while more than a third is Hispanic and a quarter Latino.
In New York City – one of the most diverse cities in the world – 78% of respondents said they ‘often or sometimes’ seek out globally inspired foods, including ingredients for home-cooking. Nationwide, that number dips slightly to 68%.
Traveling also buoys consumers’ interest in exotic flavors, with 44% of Frito-Lay’s survey respondents affirming they have been swayed by visiting other cultures.
They also find new ideas from restaurants and stores that showcase unique culinary offerings.
Spice versus comfort
Latin American flavors have risen to the top of US palate preferences, according to Frito-Lay, through the likes of mole, chimichurri and ‘all things spicy.’
Likewise, Asian ingredients have ‘gone from the restaurant to the snack shelf,’ such as red curry coconut and seasonings like Himalayan pink salt.
Finally, the survey determined comfort foods know no borders. Consumers are drawn to classic American favorites like ranch and anything with cheese, but these days, they have latched onto fusion flavors ranging from fried pickles to hot honey.
Technology to taste
The snack giant said it has harnessed the power of artificial intelligence to transform these trends into tangible, edible snacks.
Through analyzing ‘millions of data points that identify micro-markets for a flavor,’ Frito-Lay is able to pinpoint where spice-fiend consumers live, as opposed to those seeking classic notes of barbecue or salt and vinegar.
These shifts have challenged Frito-Lay to “predict, respond and adapt to rapidly expanding consumer preferences with speed and agility by leveraging technology to ensure we can get consumers exactly the snacks they want – exactly where they want to buy them,” said Michael Lindsey, the company’s chief transformation and strategy officer.
“We believe it’s our job to develop and deliver snacks that equally delight a niche community as well as a mass crowd.”