- Snacking is preferred to eating meals for 59% of adults worldwide. For millennials, that figure jumps to 70%, according to Mondelez International's "State of Snacking" report. The report was released on Monday and conducted with The Harris Poll.
- Convenience ranked as the No. 1 driver of snack choices for adults around the world, while the top three qualities that consumers look for in snacks are freshness (43%), low in sugar (36%) and low in fat (31%).
- The study found people are looking for snacks that are more focused on functionality to meet nutritional needs (47%) and provide more personalized nutrition (42%).
Although the choice to snack instead of sitting down for a full meal has increased across the board, younger generations, who are concerned with their overall health and easy access to food, overwhelmingly prefer it. But health and convenience aren't the only factors driving this increased interest in snacking, which could mean it is a long-lasting trend.
Snacking represents more than just satiating hunger for many. According to the report, it is a way to share childhood and cultural traditions and an avenue to connect with people. Three out of four adults around the world say snacking gives them an essential break to their busy days and 71% say snacking gives them time to connect with themselves, according to the report. Additionally, 82% of parents said snacking with their children presents an opportunity to connect.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that more people are snacking. According to IRI, sales in snacking rose to $89 billion in 2016, posting an annual growth rate of 3%. What is more interesting is how consumers are snacking and how that has changed.
On the surface, it seems millennials and Generation Z appear to no longer be as interested in an indulgent treat when they snack. Snacks are often seen as a way to nourish the body, evidenced by the rising demand for organic, plant-based and natural foods without additives. But at the same time, the consumption of faux junk food is on the rise — it is just disguised at better-for-you versions of familiar treats. More consumers are trading in their Rice Krispies Treats for vegan and gluten-free MadeGood Crispy Squares.
This trend plays well for Mondelez, which has worked to position itself squarely in the snacking space, but is a purveyor of indulgent treats. This latest survey found catering to indulgence might actually be an asset rather than a problem; 83% of respondents indicated an otherwise balanced diet can contain some indulgence. Four in five adults appreciated having both healthy and indulgent snacks at hand.
Despite a general acceptance of packaged snacks in one's overall diet, health is still a major consumer concern for indulgent treats. Nutritionists have said packaged snacks go through significant processing and are less healthy than fruits, vegetables and grains. This is especially a problem for children, which the Mondelez study shows are a major audience for snack consumption. Studies show children tend to eat more snack foods if they have access to a wider variety of them, which can contribute to the childhood obesity epidemic. Meanwhile, other studies have linked processed junk food to childhood allergies and health problems such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer.
Still, in the modern age of snacking, it seems an individual’s choices are more conscious than in previous generations. Research from Euromonitor International reported by Food Navigator found e-commerce reduced unplanned, impulse snack purchases in the last five years. That suggests that adults snacking today are purposefully selecting the ratio of healthy to indulgent snacks that end up in their pantries.
Convenience still reigns supreme as people are powering through their busy daily schedules. In fact, taking a moment out of the day to eat a snack could almost qualify as an indulgence in and of itself. And that's backed up by Mondelez’s report — 30% of respondents said they would be willing to forgo social media and 20% would give up their cell phones in order to have a moment with their favorite snack every day.