Trail Mix Snack

Why We Love Small Bites and Which Ones Win with Consumers

Snacking has been on the rise since the 1980s. Just three decades ago, 70% of people surveyed sidestepped snacks entirely. According to a recent Nielsen survey, today 91% of adults say the three square meals they consume are rounded out by a steady supply of small bites eaten throughout the day.

The top down trend is permeating youth culture, too. Millennials are the newest generation of grazers and about half of America’s kids are snacking up to four times each day.

This never-ending munching accounts for a substantial amount of daily caloric intake. The alternative for this consistent eating is the push for healthier snacking.

Here we’ll examine what’s driving this ravenous snack food craze, and which foods are front and center when it comes to this trend.

Reasons We Snack

Snacking is making a shift from occasional supplement to a primary food source. Thanks to the internet, we’re always connected, unhinging our work schedules from their previous 9-5 existence. More and more of us are also commuting, which drastically cuts into what might otherwise be our sit-down mealtimes. All this, coupled with a general propensity toward overeating, means snacks are becoming a necessity, not a luxury.

Additionally, the number of people eating alone is on the rise as more and more of us are forced to sneak in meals between time with our families.

When it comes to millennials, eating habits are becoming more and more unscheduled. Be it snacks or full blown meals, food consumption generally takes place as a multitasked endeavor. Whether they’re working, commuting to school or headed to the gym, you’re likely to find food in hand.

In additional to being a functional need, snacking is also frequently regarded as a way to positively influence our overall health as well as satisfy emotional cravings.

Focus on Functional Foods

Now that you know why we’re snacking, it’s time to unpack what we’re snacking on. As we scratch the surface of America’s pronounced snack food culture, a few overarching themes emerge:

  • Clean reigns supreme. There’s arguably no bigger food trend than the demand for clean label products. It’s a global standard that consumers aren’t soon to forget. They’re actively reading ingredients lists and are quick to discard products that don’t make the cut.

  • Pre-prepared please. These days, portable food is the name of the game. Representative of our on-the-go eating practices, almost a third of consumers report that a majority of heat-and-eat and ready-to-eat foods line their shopping carts. In short, if we can’t grab and go, we may not want it.

  • Uptick in fresh foods. Despite the frantic lives we lead, our demand for convenience hasn’t entirely eclipsed our desire to eat healthy. It is no surprise that whole foods are taking center stage in our snacking melodramas.

  • Push for protein. When fruits and veggies aren’t enough to tide them over, consumers reach for protein-rich snacks. From nuts and grains to portable meat and yogurt, most of us want something satiating that will stick to our bones for a bit.

The Future of Snack Food

Ultimately, as one Forbes piece on American Snacking reports, global information experts at The NPD Group are projecting a 5% growth in snack foods by 2018. That will bring the total to $86.4 billion over the next five years.

As small bites make big shifts in American eating habits, we’re likely to see the snack food culture continue to dominate.

To find out more about how we can provide nutritious, clean label products for you and your customers, contact us at 214.984.3600 or email us at

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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