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Votes Are In: Americans Now Snack With Purpose

November 8th, 2016 Posted by Healthier habits, Healthy Living, shopper behavior 0 comments on “Votes Are In: Americans Now Snack With Purpose”

Health and culinary culture influences choices

Once upon a time snacking might have been a bag of chips, tub cheese and crackers, or a box of raisins – and consumed primarily in between formal meals.

Snack occasion growth has accelerated to a point where it is no longer a unique event and changed into a form of continuous eating behavior – mostly hand-held mini-meals. Driving this development is a shift from scheduling around meal periods to eating around schedules.

A recent study of Millennial preferences from the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA), pegged the importance of meal portability, finding:

  • 6 percent of Millennials do not have a set schedule for meals
  • 3 percent eat on the run, and
  • 7 percent work and eat at the same time

Separately, a February 2016 report from The Hartman Group stated, “Snacks can be anywhere and anything, and are playing an increasingly diverse role in people’s food lives and food culture.”

That same report confirmed 80 percent of all snacking is ‘purposeful’ – answering specific desires for physical fuel ups, emotional comfort, flavor experimentation and helping enable social connections.

It should be noted, there’s an ‘influence’ factor at work here: health and nutrition experts weigh in to observe that eating smaller meals more often is just better for your health generally.

Snack Diversity is Building

Meantime the nation’s palate has also shifted to preference for higher quality food experiences. We’ve characterized this in previous posts as the “Foodie-ization of America.” It seems only logical that snacking would elevate alongside these changes, whether it is to healthier choices or epicurean adventures.

  1. The cheese industry has taken notice of this change in snacking behavior. Our client, Schuman Cheese, continues expansion of its unique and flavor-dense Cello® Whisps – a line of clean-ingredient, savory Parmesan crisp snacks. Sargento enhances the dairy aisle with combinations of dried fruit, nuts and cheeses in the new and price friendly Balanced Breaks line.
  1. New entries permeate the chip category. Way Better® Snacks pioneers an evolution in bagged options, made with better-for-you sprouted grains. While Beanitos® creates a flavor-diverse line of chips derived from GMO-free beans.
  1. A dizzying array of new protein players like EPIC®, KRAVE® and New Primal are accelerating growth of paleo-friendly meat bars and jerky products – with exotic flavor combinations (while eliminating of some of the egregious preservative ingredients).
  1. Yogurt continues its meteoric rise as multi-benefit snack option, meal replacement, recipe ingredient, protein source and pro-biotic solution. Noosa® caters to the indulgent segment, while new players like Blue Hill offer savory versions, Fage® Crossovers with chef-inspired flavors and nut pairings, and Chobani® continues to steamroll through virtually every sector.

Culinary Inspiration – Hillshire®

A leading indicator of the interest in higher quality choices is Hillshire Snacking’s new self-characterized “Fancy Snacking” Small Plates line of cheese, meats, crisps, nuts and dried fruits.

Interesting taste combinations like Tuscan Flair and Latin Fiesta are presented in portioned trays that allow the consumer to customize amounts of each item for the perfect bite. The product rolls up convenience, portion control, elevated quality and unique pairings into one experience.

We predict this could be a home run for Hillshire as it is on point with food culture changes now driving growth categories in food and beverage.

Where is retail strategy in the snack juggernaut?

We continue to believe snacking is such a significant and important behavior, representing an expanding arena for innovation, that it deserves more consideration at retail as a specific shopping destination – beyond the existing chip aisle.

Why not make the shopping experience more of an adventure while acknowledging that snack is no longer a confined occasion, by creating centers at retail where various forms and types can be merchandised collectively. Doing this takes friction out of the shopping experience and, we believe, will help increase sales in this accelerating business.

Guidance: the PLMA report also revealed the importance of healthier choice to Millennials stating 78.7 percent are interested in healthy options, 77.9 percent care about the nutritional value of food, and 73.9 percent read nutrition labels.

Snacking behavior is a cultural condition that will continue to attract new solutions and innovation in our increasingly mobile, portable lifestyles.

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Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies.  Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact [email protected] and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.