Snack consumption is on the rise, as half of today's consumers (51 percent) say that they eat snacks at least twice a day, an increase from the 48 percent who said the same in 2012. And about a third of consumers (31 percent) told Technomic they're snacking more frequently than they were just two years ago.

Not only are consumers snacking more often, they're broadening their definition of a "snack." These days, a wider range of foods—and beverages—are now viewed as snacks, and convenience stores and other retailers are sparking competition with restaurants in order to meet the growing demand. Consumers eat snacks both between meals and as meal replacements: Nearly half of consumers (49 percent) eat snacks between meals and 45 percent replace one or two daily meals with a snack.

Fifty percent of consumers indicate that healthfulness is very important to them when choosing a snack. And portability is increasingly vital: 60 percent of today's consumers, compared to 55 percent in 2012, cite portability as an important or extremely important factor when choosing a snack.

Home meal replacements or prepared foods from supermarkets, drug stores, and other retail outlets will continue to capture share of the meal/snacks market by stealing visits from restaurants, according to The NPD Group. NPD’s recent foodservice forecast through 2022 indicates that instances of prepared food purchased at retailers for at-home consumption will increase by 10 percent over the next decade, compared to a four percent increase forecast for restaurant traffic.

While there is no one age group that takes greater advantage of the prepared food offerings from retail outlets than another, the needs being met do differ by age group, according to NPD’s A Look into the Future of Foodservice study. For example, adults 35 years and older are more likely than 18-34 year olds to use prepared foods from retail to meet their in-home supper needs. 

Lunch-at-home interests are also met by these retailers, especially for seniors (65+). Consumers 18-24 are more inclined than others to make purchases from these retail outlets to satisfy their interest in afternoon or evening snacks.

In terms of prepared foods purchased, younger adults are more likely than those older to purchase pizza, hot dogs, and burgers to eat at home. Consumers 50+ years are interested in purchasing both fried and non-fried chicken. Younger adults are more inclined to order non-fried chicken than fried chicken. The home meal replacement entrees purchased most frequently from retail outlets include chicken, pizza, and macaroni and cheese. Sandwiches are also popular take-home items.

Acknowledging the growth in the number of Baby Boomers moving into their senior years, the larger share of home meal replacement purchases from retailers will source to those 65-plus years over the next 10 years, reports NPD. Prepared foods retailers are also expected to benefit from increased visiting from those in their 30s.