Latest Trends: How and Why Consumers are Snacking

To celebrate National Snack Food Month this February, Cincinnati-based retail data science, insights, and media company 84.51° have shared some of the main takeaways about how and why consumers are snacking.

Snacking truly is an integral part of the day for U.S. consumers. Around half of the population declared eating snacks as a meal replacement both at home and at work.

Snack Sales Over Time – Pandemic to Inflation

From the height of the pandemic to the current state of inflation, snack purchases have seen ebbs and flows. In 2020, there was a dramatic spike in snack sales in both sales and units sold –  a 14% increase in sales and 7% in units.

In 2021, sales began to plateau compared to 2020, with only a 0.82% increase in sales and a 5.87% decrease in units. And when consumer concerns around inflation set in in 2022, there was a dramatic increase in sales on a dollar basis of 10.8% but a decrease in units sold by -5.7%.

Related Article: Salty Snack Market Continues to Grow

What’s In the Pantry?

Shoppers are getting their snack fixes from a variety of places, including grocery stores (89%), mass retailers (68%), club stores (32%), and online (21%). What are they buying?

Fruits and potato chips are the most popular types of snacks consumers regularly consume (70% and 62%, respectively), followed by cheese, crackers, chocolates, vegetables, nuts, tortilla chips, popcorn, cookies, yogurt, candy, granola bars, pretzels, fruit snacks, protein bars, and pita chips.

Healthy snacks (e.g., natural & organic, simple ingredients, low sugar, etc.) are extremely important to 28% of consumers.

Protein bars are the most popular snacks eaten on the go (70%).

Between meals, consumers are snacking on nuts (62%), potato chips (57%), fruit snacks (56%), and crackers (53%).

Why Are Consumers Snacking?

The highest number of consumers say they snack due to craving (59%), and the lowest number say they snack because they don’t have time for a full meal (21%).

Other reasons include wanting something to graze on throughout the day, having an indulgence, doing it out of habit, and relieving stress.

Consumers are most often driven to snacks by their taste and flavor (74%), followed by fulfilling a craving (63%) and convenience (51%).

According to Statista, in 2022, the United States snack food market generated the largest single-country revenue, amounting to over $100 billion.

The snack food industry is very competitive. With sales expected to reach over $32.6 billion by 2026, savory snacks represent a significant segment of the market.

Potato chips often come to mind when thinking about snacks and are a major part of the food market. Frito-Lay products Lay’s and Ruffles dominate the potato chip market in the U.S. Frito-Lay is a subsidiary of food and beverage giant PepsiCo, Inc.

Nonetheless, while more indulgent snacks continuously enjoy monetary success, snacks focusing on nutrition and health are gaining increasing traction. In 2020, around 63 percent of American consumers aged between 35 and 44 years old wanted snacking with nutritional benefits.