Eat. Sleep. Snack. Repeat. The healthy state of the snacking industry in 2023

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Flavour and health are driving snack sales. Pic: GettyImages
Flavour and health are driving snack sales. Pic: GettyImages

Related tags Snac International snacking industry Circana Employment Sales growth Potato chips pretzels Popcorn Crackers pork rinds

The snacks sector continues to make a massive impact on the US economy, employing 395,000 workers in direct and allied sectors, generating $15 billion in wages and contributing $11 billion in tax revenue.

Snac International has released its 2023 State of the Industry Report, taking a deep dive into the latest industry trends, sales/unit data, new product innovation and the trends shaping the sector.

Snac 1

“This report provides valuable insights and strategic guidance to support industry stakeholders,” ​said Christine Cochran, CEO of Snac International.

“As the industry undergoes rapid changes and consumers seek healthier, more sustainable snacking options, it is crucial for businesses to stay informed and adapt to emerging trends.” 

Keep your friends close and your snacks closer

Couple snacking with popcorn Getty
Pic: GettyImages

Snack food accounts for 27% of all food and beverage sales in the US, accounting for $186.4 billion in snack and snack-adjacent sales.

Savoury snacks - including hot, salty, meat and lunchbox-compatible snacks - make up 57% of the snacks category, representing $58.3bn in sales. In fact, the return to school and work has seen an increase in lunchbox (14%) and salty (16%) snacks.

Sweet snacks sales represent $30.4bn (cookies, bars, sweet cups, fruit snacks and dried fruit).

As always, flavour is the consumer’s number one priority, topping criteria like better-for-you and sustainability. In fact, 88% of snackers say flavour impacts the purchase, opening opportunities for producers to really go to town with interesting options.

The act of snacking typically occurs in the afternoon and to a slightly lesser extent in the evening.

Category-specific data


Corn snacks​ are hot, hot, hot, topping the leader board with a 21.1% growth in dollar sales to $1.5 billion. The category’s spicy flavours and healthy halo are the key to its success, main drivers in the 3.6% increase in unit sales.

Flavoured pretzels​ follow on the growth graph, with a 17.5% hike in dollar sales ($1.7bn) along with 2.3% growth in unit sales, indicating higher prices are not deterring shoppers.

Inspiration for new flavours is coming from around the world as well as crossovers with flavour-forward brands.

Tortilla chips​ are riding the wave of flavour, too. Spicy, savoury and sassy flavours resulted in an uptick of 0.7% in unit sales leading to a 16.6% year-on-year growth, resulting in $6.1bn in sales.

Several top selling tortilla chip brands have flavours so popular they are crossing into other snack categories such as potato chips, popcorn and more.

The biggest opportunity for the tortilla category is to tap into the mega health trend with the addition of functional ingredients such as fibre, protein, minerals, vitamins and seeds.

Potato chips​ keep chippin’ away with a 14.5% growth in 2022, representing $7.8bn in sales.

While consumers show a preference for familiar favourites, 70% indicated a stronger willingness than ever before to go outside their comfort zone and try something not tried before. Collabs are hip and happening, and partnering with another brand remains a popular way to create new flavours.

A growing cohort of consumers prefer a puff-style chip.

Popcorn​ delivered an eye-popping performance, with 90% of the sector’s biggest brands reporting an increase in sales in 2022. Seven out of 10 experienced a double-digit hike, ringing in an overall 13.1% rise for the $1.7 billion market.

Another category to innovate in the better-for-you realm is crackers,​ with brands ramping up their portfolio of gluten-free, vegan and plant-based options. Cracker brands are also boosting the fun factor, with new innovations on the shelves and lively campaigns on social media (think Cheez-It on TikTok).

Mashups, new flavours and limited time offers (LTOs) are keeping consumers interested in the $8.5bn category, resulting in a 12.8% increase in dollar sales, despite a 4% drop in unit sales.

The $2.6bn cheese snacks​ category saw 13.9% growth by continuing to create new flavours, many tied consumers’ unending love of hot and spicy. Creative marketing and nimble social media campaigns, too, have kept fans engaged and coming back for more.

The pork rinds​ category struggled in 2022 with a 2.1% decline in dollar sales ($404m) and a 9.5% drop in unit sales.

However, pork rinds have the opportunity to tap into the high protein/low carb craze, opening opportunity to widen their reach beyond their core customer, the so-called ‘redneck with a pay check’. Think new uses as salad toppers or substitute for breadcrumbs to gain consumer attention.

Snac International (formerly Snack Food Association) has been the voice for the snack industry since 1937, representing over 400 companies worldwide, including suppliers, marketers and manufacturers. The association is committed to creating growth and opportunity through its three pillars of education, advocacy and networking.

Snac’s 2023 State of the Industry Report was brought together by Circana (previously IRI) and Sosland Publishing.

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