Food & Beverage Perspectives
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Healthy Snacking Rises, but Fruit & Veggie Consumption Stays Low

It’s not news that consumers are snacking more frequently. Interestingly, however, despite consumer claims to seeking healthier foods, fruits and vegetable consumption remains shockingly low in the United States.

It’s not news that consumers are snacking more frequently. Interestingly, however, despite consumer claims to seeking healthier foods, fruits and vegetable consumption remains shockingly low in the United States.

A recent report by Mintel, “Snacking Motivations and Attitudes US 2015," found nearly all Americans (94 percent) snack at least once a day. Further, half (50 percent) of adults snack two to three times per day with 70 percent agreeing that anything can be considered a snack these days.

The report shows consumers most often snack to satisfy a craving (62 percent), highlighting the important role taste and flavor play on snacking behavior. However, consumers also snack because it’s not the right time to eat a meal (31 percent), they’re bored (25 percent), or because they’re stressed (16 percent).

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. Further, the percentage of U.S. adults who snack only on healthy foods has increased over time. In 2008 to 2009, 25 percent of adults claimed to snack only on healthy foods, compared to 29 percent in 2013 to 2014.

However, the increase in healthy snacking doesn’t seem to be impacting fruit and vegetable consumption, which remains low, according to a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Per the study, half of the total U.S. population consumed less than 1 cup of fruit and less than 1.5 cups of vegetables daily during 2007 to 2010. This equates to 76 percent of the U.S. population not meeting fruit intake recommendations, and 87 percent not meeting vegetable intake recommendations.

Perhaps the inadequate consumption of fruit and veggies across America could be attributed to inconvenience. Mintel’s research shows that convenience is one of the most important factors when selecting a snack; 77 percent of snackers prefer ready-to-eat snacks over those you have to prepare.

Researchers for CDC’s study suggested that improving fruit and vegetable consumption for adults might start with improving intake during childhood. During 2007 to 2010, 60 percent of children consumed fewer cup equivalents of fruit than recommended, and 93 percent consumed fewer vegetables than recommended, the study showed.

Not surprisingly, Mintel research shows that even though consumers want more healthy snack options, they place more importance on taste and flavor than healthfulness when making purchase decisions. When it comes to choosing snack options, 74 percent of consumers agree flavor is more important than brand, while 51 percent agree taste is more important than health.

According to a recent Trend Snapshot from FONA International, developers are finding innovative ways to incorporate fruits and veggies into healthier, tasty snacks. As the saying goes—“Ask and you shall receive."

Some examples identified in the Snapshot report include:

  • Pizza—The increasing popularity of homemade veggie-based crusts is poised to translate into frozen concepts. After all, 72 percent of households with one child or more purchase frozen pizza from a retail grocer.
  • Breakfast cereals—In some parts of the world, consumers are eating root vegetables like sweet potatoes or purple potatoes in their breakfast cereals, the report notes. However, this trend hasn’t yet fully translated to the United States with only 11 percent of U.S. cereal concepts containing vegetables and 5 percent containing root veggies.
  • Frozen desserts—Fresh, cold-pressed juice concepts are on the rise, and the report predicts that the next step would be to see this carry over to the freezer case. Adults are the primary consumers of “gourmet" juices and would be attracted to frozen desserts containing a combination of fruit and veggies.
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