Consumers are treating snacking like another meal leading them to make more deliberate and balanced choices.
Everyone loves to snack, and while too much snacking used to be viewed as lacking self-control, and bad for you, the development of better-for-you options has made snacking a much more accepted part of our diets. In fact, people are snacking more than they have in previous years.
According to Mondelez International’s Fourth Annual State of Snacking report published this January, 64% of consumers surveyed across 12 countries in 2022 reported preferring to eat many small meals throughout the day as opposed to eating fewer larger meals. In some cases, snacking can replace typical meals. According to the same report, there was a 42% increase in morning snacking and a 22% increase in afternoon snacking, with 40% of consumers saying they skipped at least one meal the previous day in 2021, compared to 30% saying the same thing in 2013. Breakfast was the most frequently skipped meal. Overall, there was a 6% increase in the number of snacks consumed each day.
The demand for snacks is so big that the Kellogg Company split its business up into three companies focusing separately on snacks, cereals, and plant-based foods.1 According to Kellogg’s, snacks made up 80% of its sales in 2021, amounting to $11.4 billion. The rationale for the new corporate structure, according to Kellogg’s CEO Steve Cahillane, was to allow the new separate business units to focus on their own products instead of competing for resources with the high-growth snack category. Actions like this demonstrate just how profitable the snack category can be.
Because snacking is becoming a bigger and more desirable aspect of daily life, consumers are getting more selective about their snacks. According to the Mondelez report, in 2022 84% of consumers felt that snacks should meet the nutritional needs of different consumers, and 68% said they check nutrition labels on snacks before buying them. For example, offering snacks that target specific diets can boost sales. According to market researcher SPINS, Paleo-positioned products experienced 18.6% sales growth, and products with a grain-free label claim grew 15.9%, based on data from the 52 weeks ending October 2, 2022.2
When it comes to reading nutrition labels, protein content is still super relevant and important to consumers. According to SPINS, for example, cookies and snack bars with more than 20 grams of protein saw 589% year-over-year sales growth in 2022. For vegans or vegetarians, protein content can be particularly important, but plant-based label claims continue to attract a wider audience, too. The Mondelez report states that 54% of consumers are making an effort to eat more plant-based snacks and that 70% of consumers believe that plant-based snacks are better for the future of the planet. That means that a large number of consumers are either flexitarian or actively vegan or vegetarian.
That is not to say that consumers are exclusively looking for healthy snack options. Consumers may be more mindful of how they eat, but they are still willing to indulge, says the Mondelez report. It states that 63% of consumers say they are less restrictive in their eating habits than they have been in the past, with mood and other factors guiding their food choices. Additionally, 78% say they are more likely to take the time to savor indulgent snacks, with 8 in 10 consumers stating they are more selective when choosing an indulgent snack. Therefore, it appears that many consumers are very discerning and are making highly informed decisions about their snacking choices.