When choosing what to snack on, consumers are largely influenced by the time at which they’re eating, according to a recent report from market-researcher NPD Group.
Better-for-you snacks tend to be consumed early in the day, while savory items pique interest mid-day and sweet items are selected more often in the evening, NPD says.
One-third of appetizers and snacks eaten during or in place of lunch or dinner are savory, the researcher notes.
Time of year is important, too, as NPD data shows that healthier snacking decreases in November and December, while savory snacks peak in December and January.
Snack items are gaining importance at restaurants as a way to boost between-meals traffic and broaden appeal with diners, who are choosing to snack during traditional mealtimes more often. Taking a cue from this trend, chains like Starbucks and Arby’s have recently amplified their snack offerings.
What consumers eat during meals is changing, Darren Seifer, NPD Group food and beverage analyst, said earlier this year, noting that the lines between snack items and main meal foods “are blurring.”