Memorial Day numbers: Snacks again took centrestage as Frito-Lay reminded Americans to honor the fallen

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Snacking is an essential component of road trips for Americans. Pic: GettyImages/Jamie Kingham
Snacking is an essential component of road trips for Americans. Pic: GettyImages/Jamie Kingham

Related tags US Snack Index PepsiCo Frito-Lay Snacks Memorial day

Avidly patriotic, the PepsiCo-owned brand once again urged consumers to take a moment on Memorial Day to remember the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Memorial Day is also considered the unofficial start of summer in the US, which means sun, fun, road trips and of course, snacks.

Observed on the last Monday of May, Memorial Day dates back to 1868 – then known as Decoration Day – to honor the Union soldiers killed in the American Civil War. It remains an official federal holiday typically used to visit cemeteries to place flags and flowers on the graves of military personnel who have died in the line of duty.

It’s also deemed the kick-off of summer and sees families and friends gather for barbecues, picnics, outdoor activities and at sporting events, such as the Indianapolis 500.

On the road again

Many Americans take advantage of the long weekend to travel, with some of the most popular destinations being the Grand Canyon National Park and Yellowstone National Park or meandering the Pacific Coast Highway or Route 66.

Which means increased volume on the roads. In fact, the American Automobile Association (AAA) projected 43.8 million travelers to hit the road over the Memorial Day weekend this year, coming close to matching 2005’s record of 44 million road trippers. That certainly has the potential to cause a lot of angst.

Thankfully, snacks are the essential tool in staying sane in traffic for 39% of Americans. Frito-Lay’s recurring US Snack Index​ also revealed 43% of road trippers consider snacks as an essential morale booster on particularly long trips.

If truth be told, according to the Index, snacks – the choice, the quantity and the quality – hold more sway over the success of a road trip than the importance of clean restrooms.

The annual nationwide poll focused on Americans’ snacking habits also revealed 85% of Americans plan snacks before hitting the road to ‘greatly reduce the stress’, with nearly three out of four people seeing this an opportunity to dip into snacks they’ve never tried before.

Born to run

Three things stand out as the consumers' most important considerations when choose what to munch on while clocking up the miles.

As always, taste remains king, with 74% of American refusing to sacrifice flavor, even though there is a bigger focus on health and wellbeing.

Road tripping can easily sap drive, so 60% of consumers look for treats that will fuel their energy.

And of course, snacks often take the place of mealtimes on the tarmac, with 55% Americans citing protein as the most important nutritional attribute.

Snacks are the priority at a pitstop. The Index found younger road trippers (those under 40 years) are twice as likely to prioritize finding the snacks they want over clean restrooms on their stops. Mischievously, following the pitstop purchase, 44% of travelers admit to hiding snacks from other passengers. However, nearly a quarter say they have used snacks to break an awkward car silence.

And finally, the control of snacks trumps the control of music choice on the road for 41% of Americans, with 46% of Millennials showing the greatest preference for snack control, along with 49% of parents.

Snacking during the holidays is just as essential for consumers across the pond, with research by the Warburtons Foundation finding 82% of British parents spend more on snacks during school breaks.

In conclusion, regardless of Memorial Day plans, Frito-Lay’s US Snack Index found snacks remain an essential element of Memorial Day. And considering American spent around $3bn on snacks during the Memorial Day weekend last year, that’s a lot of clout.

This spending was part of the broader holiday expenditure – including other food items, beverages and party supplies – but considering the popularity of snacking during travel, a substantial portion of this expenditure was dedicated to road trip snacks.

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