- Almost a quarter of all snack food eating (24%) now occurs during main meals, up from 21% five years ago, according to a study from The NPD Group.
- Snacking is more popular with millennials and members of Generation Z, who tend to be more concerned with their health. Fresh fruit and yogurt — both seen as healthy options — are the two most popular meal time snacks.
- The young adults who are snacking more now are expected to continue this behavior as they age, with per capita snacking at meal times expected to increase by 12%.
Especially for today's younger adults, snack time is any time. This trend is nothing new — and manufacturers have been trying to capitalize on it by putting together snacks that are more like mini-meals. From meat snacks with vegetables to granola bars that have more natural ingredients, more nutrients and proteins are being added to snacks to make them convenient and filling.
Young adults have given many reasons they prefer snacking, from having on-the-go lives to desiring convenience. But even though NPD Group predicts that these snacking habits will become ingrained in millennials and Generation Z as they age, we are far from the death of the meal. Many younger adults don't have families of their own, with the snacking trend driven in part by the fact that they often eat alone. According to a study released last year by Toluna USA, 99% of families eat at least one meal together each week and 78% of parents say family meals are a priority. One in three families typically has dinner together every night.
Even if more young people have families and start sitting down at the table for meals, snack food may inevitably make it there, too. Some snack foods, like yogurt, have made appearances at meal time for years. Manufacturers have worked to add more health benefits to already-healthy yogurt, even turning it into a drink that can be enjoyed on its own by people on the run or in conjunction with the rest of the breakfast meal.