Boomers out-snack millennials by 20%, according to NPD Group’s research. But both groups are in search of functional snacks with ingredients that will help them stay fuller, longer. "Despite the age difference, both are seeking the same health benefits from their foods," Andrew Mandzy, director of strategic insights at Nielsen, told Food Dive in an email. "Foods that contain fiber, calcium antioxidants, vitamins/minerals, and heart healthy-ingredients resonate with both of these generations."
When it comes to snacking occasions, manufacturers must connect with a snacker's mindset, focusing on the time of day and age of the snacker. This also means paying attention to the ingredients that are attractive to each generation. The key for manufacturers to stay in step with consumers’ cravings is to understand the motivations for snacking, Darren Seifer, food and beverage analyst at NPD Group told Food Dive.
NPD Group’s research found that although millennials overtook boomers in population last year, annual "eatings" of ready-to-eat snacks per boomer are nearly 1,200, a total of 90.4 billion snack eatings, compared to millennials with nearly 1,000 snack eatings, a total of 83.1 billion snack eatings. The figures represent an occasion where snack foods are consumed.
Breakdown of generations
Millennials are predicted to be among the people who will grow the better-for-you snack food sector, while the boomers are the ones who will stem the decline of the sweet snack foods. "Part of it has to with life stages," Seifer said. "When we get older we tend to develop a bit of a sweet tooth, and every once in a while we want a sweet indulgence."
Millennials like snack foods for practical reasons — like to tie them over to later meals. This generation also wants to follow a clean eating lifestyle, consuming free-from foods. "Millennials are maybe not quite able to afford organic all the time, but what they look for is things they don’t want in the label and it is their way of affording a cleaner lifestyle," Seifer said.
Mandzy also noted 60% of millennials are willing to pay more for products that are good for the environment; they care about a brand's social impact. This includes measures regarding sound labor practices, including safe working environments and fair wages for employees, among others.
These habits are being passed down to their children, opening the door for manufacturers to reach even the youngest generation with organic and natural products. As parents, millennials have great influence on how the next generation will snack, according to Forbes. There are 11.6 million millennial households with children in the United States. According to Family Room, 76% of millennial parents will involve their children in decision-making, passing on their preferences for natural foods and functional snacks.
"It was about 10 years ago that the average American would have a sweet snack food as often as a savory snack," Seifer said. "And fruit and other better-for-you foods ran a distant third." Today, Americans turn to savory snacks and better-for-you snacks — sweet snacks have fallen behind the other two. The only time of day sweet snacks outperform the other two categories is 8 p.m. "Consumers want a treat or reward and it has little to do with health," Seifer added.
As a nation, Americans like snack foods and it is important for manufacturers "to find the nuances in snacking behaviors in order to differentiate a brand or find a white space opportunity," Seifer said. For example, an emerging snack food market is beef and other meat jerkeys. "When you think about it, they fit squarely with the needs consumers are seeking," he says.
Manufacturers should also note consumers are finding alternate sources of proteins as opposed to yogurt to carry them to the next meal. "We are starting to see yogurt level off, particularly with people who are sourcing from the home," Seifer says. "We still see some growth with people who are sourcing it from restaurants."
While snacking motivations vary for the different generations, manufacturers will find common themes, where consumers are looking for snacks that feature natural ingredients, provide functionality, and are ready-to-eat.