CHICAGO — The devil, as they say, is in the details. While most people agree snacking is a significant food and beverage market trend, success requires understanding who the key customers are, what they prefer to snack on and when.

The market researcher 84.51º, Cincinnati, a business unit of Kroger Co., devoted its May 2023 Consumer Digest report to better understanding the snack shopper. The report consisted of responses from 450 verified Kroger shoppers who had shopped at one of the retailer’s banners during the past three months and focused on their snacking habits.

“Younger shoppers are the shoppers who consume snacks most frequently and it seems to be a larger part of their day, how they consume food,” said Alexandra Trott, director of insights for 84.51º, during an interview at the annual Sweets & Snacks Expo that took place May 22 to 25 in Chicago.

Seventy-four percent of the Kroger shoppers surveyed between the ages of 18 and 34 years old said they snack multiple times per day versus 52% of shoppers between 35 and 54, and 50% of shoppers between 55 and 74. Trott said several dynamics are driving younger consumers to snack more, most notably how they perceive what a meal is and because they may be on-the-go more than older shoppers.

While 60% of the consumers surveyed said they are snacking the same amount as a year ago, those under 35 years old were more likely than older consumers to say they are snacking more.

Younger consumers also said they are more willing to try new snacks, with 59% saying they will buy if the new snack item is on sale. Other tactics to drive new product trial included if the flavor/texture is appealing (58%), if they have a coupon (51%) and if a friend or family member recommended it (49%).

“So there is a lot of opportunity,” Trott said. “Younger shoppers are snacking more and are showing a willingness to try new snacks. The way they are incorporating snacks into their lifestyle means it will probably be something that continues to evolve and change, and there are things we can do to evolve with them as they snack throughout the day.”

The top 5 snacks consumed regularly by the entire survey group included potato chips (69%), fruits (67%), cheeses (67%), crackers (67%) and popcorn (58%).

“An interesting insight to me is those shoppers who reported snacking on fruits and cheeses,” Trott said. “That’s a fresh, healthy element people are incorporating throughout the day that is not packaged. Snacks aren’t just in the snack aisle. It’s the produce section and what’s on the perimeter (of the store).”

Breaking down dayparts, salty snacks are most consumed between meals and during the second half of the day — in the afternoon or the evening – according to the survey. Fruits are most often consumed in the morning, and yogurt, granola bars and protein bars often may be viewed as a meal replacement to be consumed in the morning or the afternoon.

Inflation also is having an impact on shoppers.

“Inflation is one of the most impactful factors in grocery shopping right now,” Trott said. “Shoppers are reporting that they are extremely concerned about inflation, but that number is the lowest we’ve tracked in the past 12 months. Sixty-four percent of shoppers are reporting they are still extremely concerned with inflation.”

That concern is translating into shopping behaviors, with 41% of shoppers saying they are buying more private label snacks and 38% using coupons more.

“Younger shoppers are especially more likely to switch to a lower cost brand,” Trott said. “So that is also affecting the category today.”