Despite eating trends ranging from intermittent fasting to advice to “eat three square meals,” at the end of the day, Americans like to snack. That’s according to research firm The NPD Group, which studies these things and has released its Future of Snacking report. And apparently there is a future in snacking.
“Snack foods continue to evolve both as between-meal snacks and as part of main meals,” says David Portalatin, NPD’s food industry advisor who says snacks are no longer guilty pleasures. It is now a pattern of using snacks as meal replacements.
It is a trend kitchenware retailers who sell cookware or promote home cooking may want to watch.
Americans consumed nearly 386 billion ready-to-eat snack foods last year, according to NPD, with the vast majority of those eaten between main meals. This uptick in snacking comes as Americans are increasingly on-the-go and eating at all hours of the day and night.
“Each of these snack food roles is changing in different ways in reaction to Americans’ desire for balance, portable snack foods and holistic wellness,” Portalatin says.
Snacks are now being promoted as being good for you, as more food manufacturers link wellness benefits, such as snacks with more protein (think low calorie, high protein ice cream). Also, snacks are touted as portable: “single serving sizes fit busy lives” and also more interesting and enjoyable, providing what the NPD report calls “unique flavor mashups.”
That’s something Caren McSherry noticed when walking the aisles shopping for products for her Vancouver, BC, store The Gourmet Warehouse. “The Fancy Food Show in San Francisco was trending heavy in plant-based snacks, cleaner ingredients and healthy profiles,” she says.
But the NPD report also notes that “Even indulgent snack foods are staging a comeback by walking a line between health and enjoyment,” noting some brands “support moderation as a chance to indulge” by selling “thinner versions of cookies.” The report also found that consumers’ snack food choices aren’t limited by flavor, predicting that a hot trend in the snacking world are snacks that “encompass uniqueness and sensory elements such as texture, heat and aromatics.”
“Snacking is no longer just about eating when you’re bored or eating for additional sustenance,” says Portalatin. “Today and in the future, snacking is about solving small problems for consumers, and those problems present opportunities for consumers and for food marketers.”