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CHICAGO — Consumers are looking for snacks that offer a perceived health benefit, whether those snacks are salty, savory or sweet, or high-, low- or no-calorie, according to The NPD Group.
Protein, natural, and no or less sugar are the health callouts that consumers look for the most when they eat a snack, which may occur in between meals, at meals or as a meal.
The move toward snacks with a health benefit is driven by the younger generation: Generation Z, ages 0-23; millennials, ages 24-37; and Generation X, ages 38-48, NPD said. These generations together make up the bulk of the population, and their positive attitudes about snacking, desire to eat more healthfully, and need for convenience are factors behind the growth of snacks with a perceived health benefit.
Additionally, a large number of baby boomers have health conditions and tend to watch for sodium and sugar content in snacks.
"Snacking today is a prevalent behavior and there is an opportunity in every snack category for manufacturers to call out the specific health benefits — from desirable ingredients to clean labeling," stated Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst for NPD. "There is also a generational slant to take into account for each category when positioning and marketing snack foods."
Better-for-you, savory and sweet are the three mega snack categories. Consumption of better-for-you snacks, such as fresh fruit, breakfast/sports bars and yogurt, is up 14 percent since 2006 and forecast to grow the fastest out of these categories, according to NPD's The Future of Eating: Who's Eating What in 2018? report.
Savory snacks, including salty snacks and dips, increased consumption by 4 percent since 2006 and are also forecast to grow. While consumers have lost their sweet tooth when it comes to snacking, more sweet snacks today offer health benefits, and consumption is forecast to stabilize over the next few years.