As the definition of snacking has broadened and often blurred, snacks are becoming more diverse. Consumers choose snacks that fit their frame of mind, lifestyle, time constraints, values and their distinct, increasingly discerning flavor preferences. As eating habits and preferences have become more fragmented, however, what and how consumers snack has become more mindful.
Whether spurred by a desire for a performance-boosting effect or for emotional comfort, taste often makes or breaks a snacking decision. Majority of consumers want a flavor they prefer when snacking, and that sentiment in a recent poll was up three percentage points from the previous year. More than a third say they want exotic flavors. Those exotic flavors can come from all over the world, but some regions are emerging as flavor hotspots, including the Pacific Rim, Middle East and Africa. Spices and ingredients from these areas, ranging from dragonfruit to dukkah to biltong to barberries, will become more familiar with diners and grocery shoppers in the coming months and years.
Researches confirm the grazing nature of today’s consumers, with terms like “snackification” and “macrosnacking” now part of the lexicon. Even within macrosnacking (consuming mini meals at non-traditional meal dayparts), there is a purpose, with macrosnacks selected for wellness or indulgence reasons, depending on the mindset.
On the other hand, many snacks are still largely consumed as a bridge between dayparts. In a recent survey, more than half (52%) of people say that their choice of snack is based on something that keeps them full for their next meal.
Many members of Generation Z (born 1995-2015) look at snacks as fuel, but they seem to want premium fuel that helps get them where they want to go.
- Generation Z is more concerned with a food’s performance-boosting properties than going to high-status restaurants.
- Younger consumers are more likely to consume snacks as mini meals.
- Less processed, more natural products appeal to younger consumers who are interested in snack-sized meals.
- Consumers in this group seek experiential snacks with broader flavors, textures and ingredients, as well as snacks with a sustainability or organic halo; these attributes impact snack choices, especially planned snack choices.
Across the board and among demographics from adventurous young snackers to mature consumers, people are looking for new, interesting and personally relevant, lifestyle-driven flavors and ingredients. All of these converging trends open the door for a more dynamic, diverse snack market.