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The Practice of Snacking: How it's Changing in America

Updated on July 11, 2015

There's No Lack of Snacking

Americans love snacks, and their propensity to snack is growing. According to a new report from Mintel, a global consumer research organization, most Americans (94%) snack at least once a day, and half of adults (50%) snack two to three times per day.

This as a big jump from last year when only 64% of consumers admitted that they snack between meals, Mintel reports, suggesting that Americans may be replacing the traditional three-meals-a day with snack foods instead. A noticeable change that Mintel found was that 33% of survey respondents say that they are snacking on healthier foods now than they did a year ago.

Taste Matters

A 2014 study conduct by the NPD Group, a New York-based research firm, found similar consumer snack patterns and predicts that eating snacks instead of a traditional meal at regular meal times will increase 5% within three years. But despite desire for more health snack options, don’t expect Americans to live on kale and tofu alone.

Research sponsored by General Mills, the $10-billion food producer, found that while consumers claim they want healthier foods, the top five food concerns they rate as “very” or “somewhat important” are taste (92%), convenience (88%), satisfying a craving (85%), price (82%) and freshness (81%).

As for sweet snacks, many are consumed after an impulse purchase. General Mills reports that 58% of shoppers surveyed said their sweet snack buys were typically unplanned. And according to Mintel, 62% admit that they are most likely to snack to satisfy a craving.

The Snacking Generations

Nearly one-third (30%) of parents surveyed for Mintel are giving their youngsters healthier snacks these days, but 42% of households with children agree that there are not enough conveniently packaged snacks on the market, particularly snacks in resealable packages.

Millennial consumers, those shoppers ages 21 to 38, are more likely to snack than members of older generations, with 24% chowing down on a snack four times a day or more, researchers reported. Some are emotional or “functional” snackers. Nearly one-third (27%) of Millennial respondents said they snack when bored, and 17% said they snack when stressed. In addition, 39% of that age group said they snack to have energy and stay focused throughout the day.

Older consumers, such as Baby Boomers, didn’t grow up snacking all through the day and may continue to see snacks as a special treat, said a Mintel food analyst.

Despite claims of consuming more healthy foods, Americans admit that taste is a top concern when snacking.

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