Report: Stress and self-care drive increased snacking

Dive Brief:

  • A new report from Mintel suggests managing unpleasant emotions with a “treat yourself” mindset is the main reason for snacking in the United States, though more consumers than ever claim to be snacking healthy, according to Supermarket News.

  • Half of all consumers surveyed snacked to reward themselves, while 26% did so as a way to relieve stress. Mintel has seen a steady uptick in snack consumption to beat stress — particularly in salty treats — with 62% saying they had reached for a snack to deal with a stressful time last year, compared to just 16% in 2015.

  • Mintel says snacking is a form of self-care, but food marketers and product developers should leverage both health and indulgence. Snacks with health-related claims are one of the fastest growing sectors, and those with low, no or reduced allergen ingredients have increased from just 16% of new product launches in 2013 to 46% in 2017.

Dive Insight:

Experts continue to debate whether snacking has a positive or a negative effect on overall diets and body weight. Some argue regular snacking can improve nutrition, while others say it increases intake of solid fats, sugar and sodium. Research looking at how more or less frequent eating affects body weight has had mixed results, but Mintel’s latest snapshot of the market strongly suggests that snacking in America has little to do with hunger.

For food marketers and product developers, there is a balance to be struck between health and indulgence with a third of consumers saying most of their snacks are healthy, while half view their bites between meals as a treat. There is likely to be some crossover, and snack makers increasingly are seeking to play up both. Even manufacturers of chocolate-based snacks and desserts have been touting chocolate’s health credentials. In addition, many premium brands are positioning themselves as an affordable luxury with inherent health benefits.

This latest report claims consumers tend to prefer sweet and indulgent treats later in the day, but salty snacks are the fastest growing sector. There is plenty of room in the category for both sweet and savory products as snacking frequency has skyrocketed. A quarter of millennials say they snack at least four times a day, and one in seven consumers report snacking on less traditional items, such as sandwiches and cereal.

Other new trends include the reinvigoration of the popcorn and meat snack categories. Sales of gourmet dehydrated meat products have been on the rise, driven by brands like Krave, which uses its natural ingredients as a major selling point. Meat snacks saw sales climb 51% since 2011 to $3.3 billion. Meanwhile, popcorn sales grew 39% to reach $2.4 billion, benefiting from its position at the crossroads of health and indulgence.​ It's no wonder that companies such as Hershey, which bought Krave in 2015, and Kellogg, which announced this month it would reinvest cost savings in its snack portfolio through brand building and product innovation, are focusing more on these smaller portions between meals.

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Filed Under: Manufacturing Marketing