The salty snack market continues to grow, but it is not immune to consumer economic concerns, according to new research from Mintel.
With higher prices impacting nearly every product category, many shoppers have been forced to make decisions on what to buy as they look to make ends meet. Slightly more than one-third of consumers surveyed (34%) told Mintel they have decreased year-over-year snack consumption as a result of pricing concerns. Additionally, 37% said they would increase their purchase of salty snacks if there were more budget-friendly options available to them, revealing an opportunity for retailers to expand their assortments of lower-priced private label products.
Not surprisingly, 43% of consumers said the price of salty snacks is the most important factor when making a purchase decision, up from 37% in 2022. Flavor (40%) and brand familiarity (40%) remain important factors for consumers as they choose which product to buy.
"Retailers also have a prime opportunity to provide value in their private-label salty snack offerings while showcasing that private brands can deliver on flavor and innovation,” said Kelsey Olsen, consumer insights analyst, Food & Drink, with Mintel. “Winning brands will need a crave-worthy flavor experience at the forefront, with a foundation of comfort."
While price is playing a bigger role in the types of salty snacks consumers are buying, 27% of shoppers said they have increased consumption of products in the category. This is led by Millennials (47%), parents (46%) and those working at home (42%).
Several categories have also seen growth. These include cheese-flavored snacks (+6%), microwavable popcorn (+7%), and corn snacks (+8%), as well as the less mainstream snacks segment, including chips/puffs made from vegetables, beans, or ancient grains (+7%).
Mintel research reveals that salty snacks are meeting more specific emotional needs for consumers, as two-thirds choose snacks for relaxing and to satisfy a craving (67% respectively), outpacing hunger as a motivator (58%).
For younger generations, the emotional appeal is even more defined - and it's on the rise. Two in five Millennials (39%) choose snacks to relieve boredom - a nearly 10 percentage point increase since 2018. What's more, a third of Millennials (34%) choose snacks to relieve stress today, compared to 24% of Millennials five years ago.
"As consumers continue to navigate stressful and evolving times, salty snacks can be there to help them slow down and even relieve stress,” Olsen said. “Salty snacks are winning in their ability to satisfy cravings and meet emotional needs, expanding their role beyond a quick hunger-satisfying solution.”