KANSAS CITY — For many Americans who fall under the demographic heading of millennial-and-younger (and even for an increasing number of older folks), the phrase “three square meals a day” doesn’t mean much.

In today’s impatient, satisfy-me-now world, a more accurate phrase may be something closer to “one or two meals a day, and a whole lot of snacking in between.”   

Over the last five years, snacking habits have changed considerably, said Will Cowling, marketing manager for St. Albans, UK-based market intelligence specialist FMCG Gurus.

Meal-time fragmentation is a trend that continues to gain momentum, he said, with traditionally structured eating patterns diminishing and consumers skipping meals and eating out-of-home more frequently.

“This means that the concept of what constitutes a meal and what constitutes a snack is becoming more blurred. The impact on this for the snacking market is that snacking is becoming more considered.” Consumers have become much more attentive to the ingredients in products and formulation overall, wanting products that are guilt-free and conveniently nutritious.

That’s a perfect growth environment for fresh, Cowling said. Fresh products that are seen to be high in health-boosting ingredients and that can act as a genuine substitute for a meal from the perspectives of satiety, health, energy and taste perspective are much in demand.

That means that instore delis, for instance, should be able to increasingly compete with the center-store snack aisle to capture on-the-go, busy consumers.
 As snacking habits evolve, they’re also becoming more premium in nature, especially as consumers seek out genuine meal substitutes. This means, Cowling said, that fresh snacks from the deli and other perimeter departments will attract more and more consumers.

“Fresh products appeal to consumers because they’re associated with benefits such as products being healthier, tastier, more sustainable, and local, all traits that have become more important to consumers over the last 12 months,” he said. “Freshness is something that will be synonymous with value, which will encourage consumers to trade up when purchasing snacks.”

Demographically speaking, meal-skipping has historically been more tied to younger consumers, who say they’re more likely to be short on time and more reliant on convenience products.

While that’s still true to some extent, Cowling said, consumers of all ages are increasingly snacking instead of  eating traditional meals throughout the day.

Older consumers, for instance, choose smaller meals that blur the boundary with snacks because they associate such eating habits with ease of digestion, important at a time when more attention is paid to digestive health.

Satiety and higher energy are other benefits that have been tied to smaller, more frequent meals and/or snacks.

One trend that FMCG expects to continue to gain momentum in the snacking market over the next couple of years is the evolution of plant-based products.

More and more consumers, Cowling said, are adopting dietary habits based around the avoidance or moderation of animal produce and are seeking out plant-based alternatives.

“As demand for more availability of products grows, this will have implications for the snacking market, both for deli areas of retailers and traditional snacking options,” he said.

As suppliers roll out plant-based snacks across a variety of categories to target the growing flexitarian market, the continued development of taste, texture and experimental flavors will be of high importance, he added.

Duda puts snacking front and center in latest promotion

Oviedo, Fla.-based Duda Farm Fresh Foods, a leading grower of fresh vegetables and citrus, has teamed up with Fresh Cravings to launch the “Summer Snacking Games” Sweepstakes to drive consumption of produce during the warmer weather months. 

Shoppers are encouraged to enter the sweepstakes for a chance to win one of three prizes chosen specifically with the Athlete, Foodie and Host in mind. The promotion also includes an interactive poll on the website where consumers can vote for their favorite Dandy brand veggie and Fresh Cravings dip combination, and can check back daily to see who is in the running to be the summer snacking champion. 

“We are excited to partner with a well-respected brand like Fresh Cravings for this promotion,” said Nichole Towell, senior director of marketing for Duda Farm Fresh Foods. “We’re also looking forward to seeing the results from the online poll to gather more intel on shoppers’ preferences throughout the duration of the promotion to help us further serve consumers as well as our retail customers.”

Duda Farm Fresh Foods continuously looks for unique, interactive ways to engage with consumers year-round. To boost entries and elevate the “Summer Snacking Games” Sweepstakes, Duda Farm Fresh Foods will utilize a comprehensive marketing strategy that includes email marketing, online advertising, public relations efforts and social media campaigns to drive maximum engagement. 

Healthy Snacking: Glanbia Nutritionals’ five trends for 2021

With modern snacking continuing to shift toward better-for-you options, it’s important for manufacturers to understand what’s motivating consumers' snack choices. For example, millennials tend to use snacks to replace meals because of their busy lifestyles, while Gen X has an interest in cutting down on sweet snacks; many boomers are actively making changes to their diets to become healthier. Although consumers’ needs in snacks may be varied, some clear trends are emerging. 

Here’s a look at the 2021 healthy snacking trends:

1. Fresh

In a survey by Mintel of U.S. adults who snack, 68% report fresh ingredients as the most important snack claim, followed by low/no sugar at 61% and high protein at 60%. In addition, FMCG Gurus reports that U.S. consumers are most likely to choose fruit as a snack (72%), followed by yogurt (65%)—another fresh snack choice. From ready-to-drink protein juice smoothies to snacking cheeses to refrigerated bars, expect the appeal of fresh perimeter snacking to grow as more consumers embrace a healthy eating lifestyle.

2. Less Sugar

The less sugar trend is showing up across multiple food categories with claims that include reduced sugar, low sugar, no sugar, and no added sugars. While savory snacks—such as roasted chickpea snacks, ancient grain crackers, and veggie chips—have an inherent advantage here, great strides are being made in creating delicious, low and no sugar nutrition and snack bars, as well as sports nutrition and meal replacement beverages. Consumer preference for clean label has made stevia a go-to ingredient for manufacturers working to meet the growing demand for lower sugar snacks.

3. High Protein

The popularity of high-protein snacks is another top trend, with 51% of global consumers stating they’ve switched from traditional snack products like chocolate and confections to high protein/low sugar alternatives. Millennials are driving this interest in high-protein snacks which provide satiety and work well as meal replacements. The bar category continues to be strongly affected by this trend, with protein bars leading category growth. Of global snack bar launches in 2019, 1 in 3 featured a high protein claim. 

4. Minis/Bites

Another key aspect of today’s healthy snacking is portion control. Miniature, bite-sized portions of traditional snacks represent a fun and innovative approach to this. From mini flaxseed crisps to seed cubes to superfood bites, tiny snacks offer consumers a new way to experience some of their favorite foods. Snack bite offerings continue to expand with options such as energy bites, paleo bites, breakfast bites, and of course, protein bites. With their high protein, indulgent flavors, and built-in portion control, protein bites are checking all the boxes. 

5. Functional Nutrition

Snacks that offer functional nutrition represent the next frontier in healthy snacking. Leading functional snack trends include energy, focus, and calming/relaxation. Functional foods and beverages especially popular as snacks include bars and ready-to-drink beverages. Clear messaging around the product’s benefits is key as consumers may not always be familiar with the individual ingredients.