Americans have been increasingly opting for fruits, nuts and ready-to-eat snack foods throughout the day, according to The NPD Group. In its annual “Eating Patterns in America” study, the market research firm found that over the past five years, U.S. consumers added 25 between-meal snacking occasions per capita, from 505 in 2015 to 530 in 2020, and that consumption of snack foods at meals grew from 21% of eating occasions in 2010 to 26% in 2020.
NPD also discovered that snacking and snack food consumption adhere to a daily rhythm in most U.S. households, with better-for-you snack foods such as fruit or yogurt being eaten in the morning, more savory snacks like potato chips or tortilla chips eaten at lunch; and sweeter snacks like chocolate candy and cookies in the evening. Taste, satiety, preferences and how easy a food is to eat are snack drivers throughout the day, with health-driven motivations giving way to satiety as the day goes on.
Although snacking was already rising before the COVID-19 pandemic, the public-health crisis did ramp up snacking and snack food consumption. Having enough snack foods available during the pandemic is important to 37% of consumers, NPD found, adding that these consumers’ homes are well stocked with salty snacks and frozen sweets more than other items. Additionally, the market researcher pointed out, in many cases, the more snack food packages in the home, the more often the item is eaten, which tends to be particularly true of certain kinds of snack foods, such as salty snacks.
“America is a nation of snackers, and we’re no longer as averse to snacking as we once were,” observed Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst at Chicago-based NPD. “Instead, snacking is viewed as a way to have a quick bite in between meals or as a convenient meal side. Snacking is woven into the fabric of our daily lives, and this way of thinking provides endless opportunities for food and snack marketers."