Walking around the 2015 IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo it was evident the market for snack foods continues to drive innovation in the food and beverage industry. In fact, a recent report from Mintel revealed nearly 94 percent of Americans snack at least once a day. What is more, 50 percent of adults snack two to three times per day with 70 percent agreeing anything can be considered a snack these days.
According to the “Snacking Motivations and Attitudes U.S. 2015" report more frequent snacking may be replacing standard daily meals. Americans also claim a preference for healthier snacking with 33 percent saying they are snacking on healthier foods this year compared to last year, specifically those with simple ingredients and low calorie counts. However, they most often snack to satisfy a craving, highlighting the important role taste and flavor play on snacking behavior. Research from Mintel’s “Salty Snacks U.S. 2015" report indicates 63 percent of U.S. consumers value the taste of salty snacks more than their nutrition.
Millennials are significantly more likely to snack compared to older consumers with 24 percent of millennials most likely to snack frequently, four or more times per day, and 23 percent snacking more this year compared to last year. When compared to other generations, millennial consumers are more likely to be emotional or functional snackers. In fact, 27 percent snack because they are bored and 17 percent snack because they are stressed. Data research also shows the millennial generation snacks for function and to stay focused throughout the day with 39 percent snacking for energy.
Overall, 62 percent of U.S. consumers snack mainly to satisfy a craving. This is a strong driver for older consumers, especially those aged 55-62 (70 percent). Thirty-one percent of consumers snack for the practical reason that it’s not the right time to eat a meal. Other reasons are less functional and more emotional, with 25 percent of Americans snacking because they are boredup from 23 percent in 2014 to 25 percent in 2015while 16 percent do so because they are stressed.
Health plays a prevalent role in the types of snacks consumers are eating. More than one-third of snackers limit their intake of sweet snacks, such as cookies, candy and ice cream. Furthermore, 33 percent of U.S. consumers indicate they are snacking on healthier foods this year compared to last year. According to Mintel research, the percentage of U.S. adults who snack only on healthy foods has increased over time. In 2008-2009, 25 percent of adults claimed to snack only on healthy foods, compared to 29 percent in 2013-2014. Despite these increases in healthy eating habits among U.S. consumers, 60 percent desire healthier snack options.