Fast-Food Chains Betting on Bite-Sized Snacks


As we enter Summer 2024, it seems several fast-food chains are marketing a new, portable snacking option. KFC recently introduced bite-sized Apple Pie Poppers, for example. Wendy’s has partnered with Cinnabon on mini Cinnabons. The list goes on.

Though the bite-sized, fast-food snacking trend appears to be picking up the pace of late, it’s not entirely new.

“We saw a variety of snack-sized menu items back in 2015 and 2016, including Arby’s cheese pretzel bites, Wetzel’s Pretzels’ mini pizza pretzel bites called Pizza Bitz, Sonic’s petite hot dogs called Lil Doggies, and Popeyes’ ‘Rip’n’ chicken,” noted Michael Ashley Schulman, a CFA whose wealth management firm works with many food and beverage clients.

A key factor in the trend: QSRs are eager to appeal to Gen Z, as noted in a recent article by Restaurant Business. Technomic found that Gen Z’s snacking makes up 24% of eating occasions at limited-service restaurants. KFC aimed to capitalize on the movement with its new Apple Pie Popper, a sweet made of spiced apple pie filling wrapped in a buttery and flaky crust.

“We’ve had desserts before, including a family-size Bundt cake, brownies and apple pie, but this is the first dessert aimed at the individual occasion,” Sarah Borah, an R&D analyst and food innovation technologist with the KFC Food Innovation Technology team, told Restaurant Business.

“The younger generation wants to snack, so we’re really focusing on portable, snackable options.”

It seems many restaurants, including KFC, are offering options that are more appealing to eat on the go. Is this trend here to stay? Here’s some expert insight on the topic:

Does the snack-sized trend have staying power? 

It appears so. Schulman said that it’s a growing strategy to help quick-service restaurants compete with other places within the food industry by offering convenience and affordability. It also creates the possibility for consumers to upsize.

“The snacks bring back the much-needed aura of value to many fast-food establishments,” Schulman says.

Susan Taylor, CEO of smoothie chain Juice It Up!, feels that snacking throughout the day aligns with the pivot from three full meals a day to smaller, more frequent meals. Snack-sized menu items are also more in line with today’s on-the-go lifestyle, she added. Taylor and Juice It Up! plan to soon extend the chain’s pretzel line to offer snackable pretzel bites.

Why are bite-sized snacks appealing?

According to Taylor, the small bites give consumers an opportunity to have more variety in their meal occasions and try new menu items. Plus, small bites appeal to a younger audience that’s accustomed to a smaller portion sizes. Thus, it appears bite-sized snacks will appear on fast-food menus well beyond this summer.


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