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Consumers are Eating More Often, Prefer Sweet Snacks

The way consumers look at snacks and meals is evolving. Consumers are moving to six to eight food consumption occasions per day instead of the traditional three distinct meals, according to a study done for Frito-Lay, reported Forbes (May 8).

The company noted these eating occasions are blurring how consumers partake in meals and snacks, and cited changes to the typical American lifestyle as a driving force for the shifts in consumption. The declining meal ritual can be attributed to the quick pace that advances in technology have yielded across all aspects of life, with 46% of consumers eating alone more often, while 53% planned dinner within only an hour of eating.

Frito-Lay is evolving its food offerings to reflect these consumer preferences, says Dr. Christine Cioffe, senior vice president of PepsiCo Sustainability and Global Snacks R&D. Frito-Lay found mothers fed their children foods like cheese, yogurt and milk when on-the-go. In response, the company is rolling out its Imagine products, which include yogurt-based crisps.

In addition to moving away from three distinct daily meals and preferring to eat more-frequent smaller meals and snacks, consumers find sweet snacks more appealing than all other types of snacks, according to Technomic and The J.M. Smucker Co. Almost three-quarters of consumers find sweet snacks appealing, with 36% saying they find them very appealing. Those ages 25 to 34 are the most likely to prefer sweet snacks, followed by women, Westerners and those with a mixed ethnic background. 

The afternoon and evening are the most popular times for snacking. Among the 35-44 cohort, 76% are likely to eat sweet snacks in the afternoon and 78% like eating sweet snacks in the evening. Sixty-one percent of this group likes late-night sweet snacks, while 47% like having a sweet snack in the morning.

But just 37% of consumers would eat a sweet snack to replace a meal, which is a lower percentage than every other snack type.

Sweet-savory, better-for-you, and mini or shareable options can broaden consumer appeal by targeting those who prefer savory snacks, or see sweet snacks as unhealthy or too filling. Fifty-seven percent of consumers enjoy snacks with a sweet-savory flavor combination, 70% of 35- to 44-year-olds, specifically. Sweet snacks can get a healthy boost by adding fruit, acai or cacao, and on-the-go or sampler options help make sweet snacks less filling.

The most appealing flavor combinations are sweet and savory (53%), sweet and sour (51%) and sweet and smoky (51%), according to Technomic’s 2017 Flavor Consumer Trend Report.

Women are more likely than men to purchase all sweet snack varieties, with the exception of pie (39% of men vs. 36% of women). Ice cream is the favorite of every cohort except Millennials, as 77% prefer cookies. Ice cream is also the favorite of every ethnicity, except for Hispanics and those with a mixed ethnic background, who both prefer cookies. Hispanics (37%), mixed ethnic background (36%) and Asian (22%) consumers are most likely to purchase ethnic desserts.

For the full story, go to this week’s Food Institute Report.