Consumers are changing the way they snack, finds Technomic

Most consumers (76 percent) say their snacking habits have changed in some way during the past two years, reports a new study by foodservice industry consultant Technomic. More than one-half of consumers snack at least once a day. About one-fifth of consumers (21 percent) say they are snacking more frequently now, and more than one-third (35 percent) say they are choosing healthier options than they were two years ago.

The findings are detailed in Technomic’s new Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report, which examines snacking behavior, purchase decisions, attitudes and preferences away and at home; at retail establishments and at restaurants; and by consumer demographic.

Select findings include:

  • More than two out of five consumers (42 percent) say they usually skip one meal a day or replace a meal a day with snacks.
  • Roughly three-quarters (74 percent) of snacking takes place at home. However, consumers aged 18-24 are more likely to snack outside the home than other groups (32 percent versus 26 percent).
  • Consumers purchase the majority of their snacks from retail locations as opposed to restaurants (83 and 17 percent, respectively).
  • About one in five consumers (19 percent) have broadened their definition of snacks to include more types of food.

“Growing snack consumption and the consumer’s broadening perception of what constitutes a snack are changing how operators and manufacturers should position this category,” says Darren Tristano, EVP at Technomic. “The greatest opportunities likely exist for packaged snacks and prepared offerings at retail locations and limited-service restaurants, although many full-service concepts seem to have room to market snacks as well.”

Some trends and venues examined in this report include:

  • Bar snacks and happy-hour menus: Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse’s 5 for $6 ‘Til 7 Bar Menu
  • Ethnic-inspired upscale food trucks: Mmmpanadas, Kogi’s
  • Healthy and fresh: Jamba Juice’s 3g Energizer, McDonald’s Parfait
  • Bundling snacks into combo meals: Long John Silver’s Popcorn Shrimp Snack
  • Afternoon menus: Einstein Bros.’ Snack Out Menu
  • Beverages as snacks: Caribou Coffee’s chocolate-based specialty drinks.

The Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report was designed to help foodservice executives understand menu trends, consumer preferences, needstates and attitudes associated with snacking occasions. The Consumer Insights section is based on results of a January 2010 online survey conducted with 1,500 American consumers, and provides data analysis by Snacking User group (super heavy, heavy, moderate and light) and age group. Menu Insights utilizes Technomic’s exclusive MenuMonitor database to look at how leading, emerging and independent chain operators are menuing and positioning snacks.

The Competitive Insights section helps operators benchmark their concepts and snack offerings against leading competitors by exploring how often consumers visit 31 limited-service restaurants for snacks and which items they purchase. Additionally, menu and consumer data from Technomic’s 2007 Snacking Category Report are discussed where relevant to provide even deeper insights into the topic. Report appendices feature detailed profiles of 20 innovative and emerging snack concepts, and snack purchase demographic profiles for more than 30 leading limited-service restaurants.


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