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Does This Article Bore You? Have a Snack.

CHICAGO — Snacking may very well be the new American pastime. According to a Mintel report, Snacking Motivations & Attitudes US 2015, nearly all Americans (94%) snack at least once a day.

Half (50%) of adults snack two to three times per day, with 70% agreeing that anything can be considered a snack. The research points to the pervasive nature of snacking today—only a year ago, 64% of consumers said they often snack between meals, Mintel’s The Snacking Occasion US 2014 report said.

Research from Chicago-based Mintel’s The Fifty highlights that more frequent snacking may be replacing standard daily meals.

Americans also claim a preference for healthier snacking, with 33% 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 (62%), highlighting the important role taste and flavor play on snacking behavior. In fact, Mintel’s Salty Snacks US 2015 report indicates that 63% of U.S. consumers value the taste of salty snacks more than their nutrition.

Millennials (consumers age 21 to 38) are significantly more likely to snack compared to older consumers, with 24% most likely to snack frequently, four or more times per day, and 23% snacking more this year compared to last year. When compared to other generations, millennial consumers are more likely to be emotional or functional snackers. The millennial generation snacks to stay focused throughout the day, with 39% snacking for energy.

Overall, 62% of U.S. consumers snack mainly to satisfy a craving. This is a strong driver for older consumers, especially those age 55 to 62 (70%). Nearly one third of consumers (31%) snack for the practical reason that it’s not the right time to eat a meal (it’s too early or too late). Other reasons are less functional and more emotional—one quarter of Americans snack because they are bored, increasing from 23% in 2014 to 25% in 2015, while 16% do so because they are stressed.

“Millennials are more likely to snack compared to older generations as a means to fulfill emotional and functional needs, including combating boredom or stress and increasing energy and focus. Older consumers did not grow up with all-day snacking and may continue to view snacks as treats,” said Amanda Topper, food analyst at Mintel. “Millennials are also more likely than older generations to indicate snacks with added nutrition and flavor variety are important to them. As a result, they may be drawn to products with high fiber, energizing claims or protein content to stay satiated, as well as bold flavors to help add variety to their frequent snacking occasions and eliminate boredom.”

Retail location and word of mouth are important influences on iGeneration/millennials’ (consumers age 18 to 38) snacking behavior. This generation is most likely to try a snack that has been recommended to them (68%) and most likely to go out of their way to buy snacks from a specific store (43%). iGen/millennials are drawn to organic snacks and products with added nutrition, including protein and vitamins. Ultimately, affordability is more important to this generation, creating an opportunity for health-focused or organic brands to reach them with low-cost snacking options.

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 (34%). This is especially true among the swing generation/World War II or consumers age 70 and older (45%). Furthermore, 33% of U.S. consumers indicate they are snacking on healthier foods this year compared to last year. The percentage of U.S. adults who snack only on healthy foods has increased over time. In 2008-09, 25% of adults claimed to snack only on healthy foods, compared to 29% in 2013-14. 

Not only are consumers eating healthier snacks, but nearly one third (30%) of parents are serving healthier snacks to their children, particularly 33% of millennial parents. While healthy snacking options are a win for U.S. parents, 42% of households with children agree there are not enough conveniently packaged snacks, such as individual portions or resealable packages. Convenience is one of the most important factors when selecting a snack; 77% of snackers prefer ready-to-eat snacks over those that must be prepared.

Despite these increases in healthy eating habits among U.S. consumers, 60% wish there were more healthy snack options; however, 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% of consumers agree flavor is more important than brand, while 51% agree taste is more important than health.

“With a third of consumers saying they are snacking on healthier options more often this year compared to last year, there will be an increasing need for better-for-you snacks, in smaller portions and convenient formats. This addresses consumers’ desire to balance both health and indulgence,” said Topper. “Consumers, especially households with children, agree there are not enough conveniently packaged snacks, such as individual portions or resealable packages. This highlights a need for balance between convenience and affordability, knowing the importance many consumers, especially younger consumers, place on affordable snacks.”


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