The Snacking Trend is Over
That’s right, snacking should no longer be considered a food trend. It’s now the new normal and it’s here to stay. In fact, 50% of all eating occasions are now snacks. A December Mintel report states that 94% of adults snack daily, which raises the question, what are those other 6% up to? Interestingly, the report goes on to say that ‘conventional snacking’ actually declined 2% annually over the last three years, while ‘health and wellness’ snacking grew 6% annually, driven by ‘fresh snacking’, which was up 8%. You only have to go into your average convenience store to see the evidence of this trend taking place. Sure, they still sell plenty of Twinkies, but those chemical marvels are now sharing the shelves with protein bars, trail mix and even fresh fruit.
More Protein and Plants, Please
While consumers want snacks with clean labels and whole-food ingredients, they aren’t willing to give up convenience or portability. The healthy snacks picking up the lion’s share of this growth deliver on these attributes. They also match up with two overall food trends in meals. These are, one, the belief (by 50% of US consumers) that they need more protein in their diet, and, two, the desire for more plant-based foods. In fact, a snack with plant-based protein ingredients indicates to consumers their snack is ‘clean’ and delivers nutritional benefits.
Brick-and-Mortar, Here’s Your Chance to Shine
This focus on fresh snacks has given the brick and mortar supermarkets a new growth area, not well served by online channels due to shipping and cold-supply challenges. And it’s reshaping supermarkets. Refrigerated and frozen cases are being added to center store aisles. New sections are being added to the perimeter in response to consumer data showing that’s where they shop for new foods and impulse items.
The Intersection of Healthy and Indulgent
The December issue of Bakery and Snacks predicts 2019 will see the introduction of snacks that tout gut health and include prebiotics, probiotics, and fiber. They go on to say the consumer’s desire for plant-based snacks will be met by innovative new products using nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and algae in snack bars, chips, as well as dairy-free cheeses and yogurts. They conclude, “Consumers will increasingly seek out minimally processed foods made from clean label ingredients that contain bioactive compounds”.
Mintel reports that 50% of US consumers say the top reason they snack is to treat themselves. However, a May 2018 report from Nutritional Outlook states that over 60% of snack, nut, and seed product launches in 2017 in the US used a health claim, with 16% making a vegan claim. Perhaps snacking has become so prevalent in part because it sits at this intersection between healthy and indulgent.
Consumers are Eating on the Go
Another trend to be aware of, and parallel to the snacking trend, is that Americans spend less time eating than they did ten years ago. A report in Food Dive from November stated that the amount of time spent eating as a primary activity (i.e. sit-down meals) decreased 5% over this period, while eating as a secondary activity (i.e. snacking) remained stable. The article goes on to report that all age groups are purchasing prepared foods more than they did ten years ago. The resurgence of the frozen food category, much of it led by new healthier options showing up in the frozen aisle, is catering to this trend. So too are the increased number of options the average supermarket has in the deli self-serve section, with sushi, salads, ribs, roast chicken, potatoes, corn, and more available. And meal kits, after stumbling in the subscription/home delivery model, are re-emerging in supermarkets.
Is Your Food Brand Positioned to Win?
The foodservice operator, retailer, or CPG food manufacturer who can provide consumers with a product, snack, or on-the-go meal that is healthy, tastes indulgent, and extremely convenient will have great success in the years to come. That shouldn’t be too hard to come by, should it?