Consumer Insights: How Do Americans Choose Their Snacks?

POSTED BY Greg Keating ON Sep 18, 2017 12:31:39 PM

It is no secret that Americans love their snacks, with 94 percent saying they snack at least one time per day. Around half of Americans snack two or three times per day. Hence, creating and marketing snack foods for Americans can be a smart move for CPG brands, as long as they understand snacking behavior.

How Do Americans Choose Their SnacksBrands that understand American snacking trends are poised to succeed in a competitive market.

Compared to a few years ago, people are trying to make healthier snacking choices for both themselves and their children. However, they still want the convenience of their long-time favorites, so it is important that brands creating healthier alternatives to traditional chips and cookies make them convenient so consumers do not feel like they have to “work harder” to enjoy healthier foods. Here are some key consumer insights about how Americans choose their snacks.

What Consumers Look for in Sweet Snacks

Bars and yogurt have become increasingly popular with those who want convenience while also getting some natural ingredients and protein in their snack food choices. Few people use bars as replacements for meals, with most people using them as between-meal snacks, because they are convenient and tasty. People are increasingly wary of high sugar content in bars, however, and want protein, natural ingredients, and fiber or other beneficial ingredients in their snacks as well.

The yogurt market is thriving, but this $8 billion food category is still growing at a fast clip. People are increasingly favoring Greek yogurt because of its higher protein content. However, people are becoming more concerned about sugar content in yogurt. Yogurts blended with oats and other grains are becoming a popular snack food that can also make a quick breakfast, which is appealing to time-pressed Americans getting ready for work or school.

What Consumers Look for in Savory Snacks

Ninety percent of American households purchase salty snacks like chips and popcorn to enjoy on their own, or as vehicles for consuming dips and salsas. While sugar content is less of a concern with salty snacks, people are increasingly aware of artificial colors and flavors.

Consumers are also branching out in terms of savory snack flavors they are willing to try. Though “plain” salty snacks are still the top choice because of their ability to please most everyone and taste great with dips and salsas, cheddar cheese, barbecue, and sour cream and onion flavors are also tops with American snackers. Bold flavor offerings for savory snacks are making more inroads, especially with Millennial snackers.

Savory SnacksPeople choose salty snacks to eat on their own, or as “containers” for dips and salsa.

How Packaging and Marketing Influence Consumer Snack Choices

Packaging for snack foods should never be an afterthought, because package design can strongly influence which snacks people choose. One of the most important consumer insights revealed in recent studies of snacking choices is the importance of both convenience and “clean” labeling for snack foods. 

When snacks are chosen for children, convenient packaging is a must, and many parents prefer resealable pouches or single-serving packaging so that snacks are more portable. As for labeling, consumers want to find out quickly what ingredients are in their snacks, and also want basic nutritional information, especially calorie count, fat content, and sugar content. When this information is hard to find, consumers may choose a competing product that puts key nutrition facts in plain sight.

How Snack Food Manufacturers Can Address Snacking Trends

On-pack claims for snacks make a measurable difference in consumer snacking behavior. Dozens of different claims can influence consumer choices for snack foods. However, calorie count and fat content are the two data points that most heavily influence snacker choice. Sugar and gluten content are also increasingly important, and consumers do not want to have to search to find out this data. 

CPG manufacturers that address snackers’ interest in health, convenience, taste, and labeling clarity are the ones that will have the most influence in the highly competitive snack food sector. While people want to choose healthier products for snacking, packaging can make or break a consumer’s decision to choose a healthier snack option. 

Specifically, if a snack food is perceived as inconvenient for consumers or their children, health benefits will take a back seat to convenient, clearly labeled packaging. It stands to reason that the brands that address health and taste without expecting consumers to give up convenience or excellent packaging design are the ones that can expect the best long-term success in addressing American snack choices.

Hangar12 is constantly striving to be at the forefront of CPG marketing strategy and more. Subscribe to our blog to stay up to date with our latest insights! 

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