Frito-Lay’s Trend Index: Today’s snacker prioritises how a company behaves

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

It's not what you produce, but what you do that is quickly becoming important for American consumers. Pic: GettyImages/Klaud Vedfelt/Shana Novak
It's not what you produce, but what you do that is quickly becoming important for American consumers. Pic: GettyImages/Klaud Vedfelt/Shana Novak

Related tags Frito-lay north america PepsiCo Frito-Lay US Trend Index Sustainability Flavour social impact

The latest US Trend Index from Frito-Lay found that 90% of respondents who snack daily not only care – but care deeply – about what the producers are up to.

Attention to sustainability practices (77%), community impact around food access (78%) and treatment of employees (87%) top the leaderboard driving purchasing decisions, especially among the younger set.

More than half of the 18-34 consumers allow a brand’s ethics and sustainability practices (both production and packaging) to influence their choice of snack. However, consumers of all ages consider ingredient integrity and flavour exploration has more influence over choice.

In fact, if they had to choose one snack element, 42% of all respondents nodded to favoured flavour combo’s (sweet & spicy; tangy & salty); 21% keep going back to familiar, regional flavours; texture is a big hit for 21% of respondents; and 15% seek out exotic, international tastes.

All hail the king

Flavour, flavour, flavour – especially new and surprising ones – as always, wins.

According to Frito-Lay’s Trend Index, 35% consumers said innovative flavours are most likely to influence what they select, more than recommendations (28%) brand recognition (21%), packaging (9%) or sustainability efforts (7%).

Consumers really are not afraid to try new things, and even encourage the chance to go beyond the norm. Frito-Lay said it found 40% of them get terribly excited to find a ‘new snack’, especially one sporting an entirely different, unique flavour.

Further insights of the annual Trend Index reveals the importance of what’s taking place ‘on the inside’, with the older generation more interested in naturally sourced ingredients than production-related factors like recycled packaging, compostable packaging or products made with recycled water (74%). However, sustainable food products are important to 66% of consumers of all ages. Two-thirds of Americans are more likely to purchase products that invest in local communities.

It also shows that long-term eating habits are shifting, with 81% of Americans enjoying the social aspect of snacking. However, 45% of Gen Zers and Millennials prefer to eat in solitude. Gen Zers (20%) edge slightly ahead of Millennials (19%) with snacking-on-the-go.

Snacking this summer

“During the summer, people explore new activities, new places and enjoy new flavours of snacks as they attend more outdoor gatherings,”​ said Mike Del Pozzo, chief customer officer for Frito-Lay North America.

“While flavour continues to drive consumers’ food-purchasing behaviours, we know how a company behaves matters and that’s why I’m proud of Frito-Lay’s commitment to sustainability and community impact.”

When it comes to the snacking habits of American this season, Frito-Lay found that more than two in five parents will buy or create individually packaged snacks in advance before embarking on their summer holiday.

While busy parents are on the move, it’s also no surprise that 52% are more likely than non-parents to replace meals with snacks several times per week. Now that pandemic restrictions are (hopefully) in the past, 60% of consumers are most excited to socialise outside with family and friends – with the ubiquitous snack stock at the ready.

The recipe for a perfect snack

Yes, according to Frito-Lay, there is such a concept and it involves a two-prong consideration:

It’s all about the combo

As mentioned above, 42% of Americans seek out favoured flavour pairings, however, given the choice, 59% are keen on new exotic pairings.

Gateway snacking

44% of respondents of all ages said trying new snack flavours led them to try more foods with those same flavours, while 58% of 18-34 consumers claimed to have eaten more foods featuring that flavour they had initially tried in a snack.

Frito-Lay North America is the $19bn convenient foods division of the PepsiCo, which produces mega brands like Lay’s, Ruffles, Doritos and Cheetos, among others. The Purchase, NY-headquartered company operates more than 30 manufacturing facilities across the US and Canada, serving 315,000+ retail customers per week through its direct-store-delivery model.

The Frito-Lay US Trend Index was conducted in May among a national sample of 2,400 Americans, aged 18 years and above. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of adults based on gender, educational attainment, age, race and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

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