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CHICAGO – U.S. consumers' tendency to eat traditional snack foods, especially those with perceived health benefits, in between and at traditional meals will drive the growth of snack foods eaten at main meals over the next five years, according to The Future of Eating: Who's Eating What in 2018?, a new report by The NPD Group.
The forecast shows that snack items eaten at main meals will grow by approximately 5 percent during the next few years to 86.4 billion eatings in 2018.
The strongest growth will occur in better-for-you segments, including products such as refrigerated yogurt, bars and fresh fruit, which consumers perceive as both more healthful and convenient. As a result, consumers are more prone to eating these snacks between and at main meals.
Ready-to-eat sweetened snack foods and desserts, which consumers are less likely to eat at main meals, will be flat in the next five years, according to NPD.
"The growth in better-for-you snack foods in between and at meals is a good example of how consumers are redefining the foods they eat, and how the traditional lines between snack foods and main meal foods are blurring," stated Darren Seifer, NPD's food and beverage industry analyst. "Consumers clearly associate certain times of day with main meals and between-meal occasions, but what they are eating at those occasions is changing."
Millennials (aged 24 to 37), Generation X (aged 38 to 48) and Generation Z (aged zero to 23) are driving much of the growth in better-for-you snack food consumption between and at meals. Factors influencing this change include their positive attitudes about snacking, desire to eat more healthfully and need for convenience.
"Food marketers and retailers can capitalize on the growing interest in better-for-you snack foods, but it may require a paradigm shift," Seifer said. "It's key to focus on providing convenience and addressing the needs that these foods meet rather than positioning foods in the pre-defined buckets of snacks or main meal foods."