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CHICAGO -- Fresh fruit is earning honors as the top snack food consumed in the United States, but also as one of the fastest growing.
According to The NPD Group's "Snacking in America," growing concerns about health and eating right are contributors to the increasing popularity of fruit as a snack. In addition, fruit is consumed throughout the day as is consumed during more snack occasions than other foods.
During the two-year period ending March 2012, fresh fruit was consumed as a snack in 10 more snack occasions a year than chocolate, the next top snack food, and 25 more occasions a year than potato chips, the third most popular snack food.
The research also found that consumption of snack-oriented foods is motivated by different needs: health and weight; hunger satiety; on-the-go/convenience; routine/habit; cravings; and a treat/reward when watching TV, visiting friends or other social activities. Fresh fruit ranks No. 1 in five of the six needs states -- health and weight; hunger satiety; convenience; routine/habit; and satisfying a craving.
"Snacking in America" also pointed out that fresh fruit is popular among all age groups. Consumers 65 and older eat the most fruit, followed by children under 12. Teens ages 13 to 17 eat the least amount of fruit, but their consumption increases as they get older. In addition, healthier snack consumers snack more often between meals and eat a wider variety of healthy snacks, and fruit is the top go-to snack for these consumers.
"Taking the who, what, when, and where of fresh fruit consumption into account, the point to be made is that fresh fruit is a top-of-mind snack with most consumers," said Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. "Among the opportunities this trend presents to producers and produce retailers to market and merchandise fruit around the activities during which it is most likely to be eaten, usage can be expanded with packaging innovation and promotions for on-the-go activities when it's least likely to be consumed."