Consumers are flocking to the snack aisle more than ever before. More than 50 percent of us snack two to three times a day, up from 10 percent in the 1970s.1 But what we’re snacking on is changing. Chips, cookies and the like still have their place on the shelf, but demand is also growing for items such as protein snacks in the form of beef and other meat jerkies, especially when the snacks are free from hormones and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
This change represents potentially huge opportunities for food producers and packaging manufacturers. But success will depend upon satisfying a wider range of tastes, while also responding to the very different needs of younger millennials and aging baby boomers.
Here are three areas of opportunity brought about by these new snacking behaviors.
1. What’s Not in the Snack Is What Counts
Food manufacturers and packaging designers must find new ways to break the tension consumers of all ages feel between indulgent and healthy snacking. Snack marketers should call attention to nutritious ingredients and “free-from” characteristics of the snack food, as many consumers equate health with the absence of artificial ingredients.
Many of the snack foods launched in 2014 included “free-from” claims:
These claims won’t hold as much appeal, however, if a product’s packaging doesn’t reflect its simplified ingredient list. Better-for-you snack packaging should reflect the simplicity and purity of the food by becoming visually simpler and cleaner.3 Lose the elaborate graphics on solid bags and boxes and replace them with packaging with windows and clear wrappers that enable consumers to quickly and easily assess the integrity of the snacks on the store shelf.
2. Baby Boomers Reach for Healthy Options
Younger millennials and older baby boomers snack differently. New research identifies healthy snackers as older; 48 percent of them are over 55. Healthy snackers most likely snack only once a day, buy organic food and exercise several times a week.4
Snacks aimed at these older consumers need nutritional and “free-from” information clearly explained on the packaging — with images and type sizes that are considerate of baby boomers’ aging eyesight.
The nutritional value of snack food matters to boomers. They learned as children to eat three square meals a day. Now they’re replacing full meals with snack foods rich in nutrients like protein, fiber and Omega-3s that can help promote bone health.5 Think sunflower seeds, nuts and whole grain popcorn to delight this older generation.
3. Connect with the Multi-Snackers
The larger opportunity may be in increasing sales to so-called multi-snackers — who tend to be 18-24 and 35-44 year-old females with an appetite for sweets. Why? These consumers:
• Make up 51 percent of snackers worldwide
• Snack more than once a day
• Buy snacks for convenience, not health concerns, saying they have too much work and not enough time to eat healthier6
They also strongly prefer snacks in containers that can be resealed and recycled. Designs that make packaging reusable and sustainable can be as important as whether the candy, cakes or cookies hit the spot. Build your merchandising strategy around packaging that makes it easy for multi-snackers to eat and drink on the go.
Don’t assume, however, that younger consumers are uninterested in the healthfulness of their snacks. Your goal should be to merge convenience with nutritious and “free-from” attributes.7
Grow through Mindful Innovation
The snack market is worth $375 billion worldwide ($124 billion in North America). Cookies, cakes and confections, and salty chips, nuts and crackers categories still hold the majority share of snack sales.8
Nevertheless, growing numbers of millennials and baby boomers are taking a more mindful approach to snacking, while doing so in different ways. Food producers and their packaging partners can enjoy substantial growth through equally mindful innovation that satisfies the millions of consumers who now snack regularly.
1Huffington Post, “Trend Spotting: 7 Top Food Trends,” October 28, 2014.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dawn-jackson-blatner-rd-cssd-ldn/trend-spotting-7-top-food_b_6038432.html
2Mintel, “Free-from food Trends US 2015,” Billy Roberts, senior analyst of food and drink.
3Civic Science Insight Report, “Healthy Snacking and Multi-Snacking: A Food Industry Marketing Challenge?,” April 2015.
5Huffington Post, ”Top Food Trends for 2015… Are You Ready?,” Phil Lempert, CEO, Supermarket Guru, November 26, 2014.
6Civic Science Insight Report, “Healthy Snacking and Multi-Snacking: A Food Industry Marketing Challenge?,” April 22, 2015.
7Industrial Baking & Snacks, “’Free-from’ may become industry standard in snacking, Mintel analyst says,” September 9, 2015.
8Nielsen, “Snack Attack: What Consumers are Reaching for Around the World,” September 2014.
Pete Healy, VP, Account Planning, gyro Cincinnati