CHICAGO — A new report from The NPD Group shows the rise in snacking in recent years. Americans added 25 between-meal snacking occasions per capita over the past five years, NPD found, with the number of snacking occasions per capita increasing to 530 in 2020 from 505 in 2015.

The consumption of snack foods at meals grew from 21% of eatings in 2010 to 26% in 2020, according to the report.

Snack food consumption follows a daily pattern in most households. Consumers tend to reach for better-for-you snacks like fruit and yogurt in the morning, savory snacks like potato chips and tortilla chips at lunch, and more sweets like chocolate candy and cookies in the evening. Taste, satiety, being a favorite and easy to eat were among the top motivators for choosing snack foods, NPD found, with health-driven motivations giving way to satiety as the day progresses.

NPD snacking chartAlready on the rise before 2020, snack food consumption was accelerated by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Thirty-seven percent of consumers said having sufficient snack foods on hand during the pandemic was important. Consumers who said it was important to have snack foods on hand stocked up on salty snacks and frozen sweets more than other foods.

Consumers who had more snack packages in the home consumed those snacks more frequently. As an example, consumers with five or more packages of crackers or salty snacks in their home consumed those items at higher rates than those with fewer packages in their home, the report said.

“America is a nation of snackers and we’re no longer as averse to snacking as we once were,” said Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst at The NPD Group. “Instead, snacking is viewed as a way to have a quick bite in between meals or as a convenient meal side. Snacking is woven into the fabric of our daily lives, and this way of thinking provides endless opportunities for food and snack marketers.”