The highs and lows of US snacking sales

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Snacks sales have experienced highs and lows over the past two years. Pic: GettyImages/John Gollop/PM Images
Snacks sales have experienced highs and lows over the past two years. Pic: GettyImages/John Gollop/PM Images

Related tags 84.51 retail sales shopper behaviour coronavirus Inflation Kroger

To help drive sales during National Snack Food Month (February), Cincinnati-based retail data science, insights and media company 84.51° has shared an assortment of snacking takeaways for retailers.

The Cincinnati-based specialist helps US retail giant Kroger and its partners, leveraging first party retail data from nearly one of two US households and more than two billion transactions, so it’s perfectly positioned to create customer-centric shopper journeys.

From pandemic to inflation

Highs and lows OlgaKlyushina
Pic: GettyImages

According to 84.51°, snack purchases over the past two years have followed a rollercoaster ride, much like consumers have, from the height of the COVID outbreak to the current cost-of-living crisis.

In 2020, there was a dramatic spike in both sales and units sold, an increase of 14% and 7%, respectively. This was purportedly driven by the need for a bit of TLC to calm tension and uneasiness.

Sales began to plateau in 2021, with only a 0.82% increase in sales and a 5.87% decrease in units.

Last year, consumers were hit by inflation, again shattering nerves and causing a dramatic increase in sales on a dollar basis of 10.8%, but a decrease in units sold by 5.7%.

After a year of coping with rising prices and economic uncertainty, most consumers are looking to keep a lid on expenses and avoid unnecessary spending in 2023.

What’s in the pantry?

Looking in a pantry skynesher
Pic: GettyImages

Americans are getting their snack fix principally from fruits (70%) and potato chips (62%), said the market researcher.

Other popular choices are cheese, crackers, chocolates, vegetables, nuts, tortilla chips, popcorn, cookies, yoghurt, candy, granola bars, pretzels, fruit snacks, protein bars and pita chips.

Better-for-you snacking – natural and organic, simple ingredients, lower in sugar, sodium and fats – are extremely important to 28% of consumers.

Protein bars are the most popular snacks eaten on-the-go (70%).

Between meals, consumers are snacking on nuts (62%), potato chips (57%), fruit snacks (56%) and crackers (53%).

Consumers are increasingly seeking snacks that sport functional benefits: everything from controlling weight to improving sleep and managing cholesterol. The top three desires among all age groups (especially the 18-34 year olds) are to boost energy, maintain heart health and enhance gut health.

Shoppers pick up their snacks from a variety of outlets, including the grocery store (89%), mass retailers (68%), club stores (32%) and online (21%).

84.51 graph
Graph: 84.51°

Why are Americans snacking?

59% of consumers claim to snack to quell a craving, while on the other side of the scale, 21% say they don’t have time for a full meal and will have a snack instead.

Other reasons include wanting something to graze on throughout the day, having an indulgence, doing it out of habit and relieving stress, according to the retail data specialist.

Taste, as always, remains king (74%), followed by fulfilling a craving (63%) and convenience (51%).

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