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    Snack Foods Make Their Way Into Main Meal Occasions

    Healthier fare such as fruit and yogurt lead the shift in timing.

    CHICAGO -- Although many believe that Americans have begun snacking more in recent years, The NPD Group found that's not actually the case. Rather, there is an ongoing shift in when Americans are snacking, which could lead to new ways of thinking about snack foods, according to NPD's Food For Thought blog.

    The number of snack meals eaten between main meals in the United States has remained steady over the last several years. NPD's SnackTrack information, however, shows that while traditional between-meal snacks may be flat or softening, versatile snacks such as fruit and yogurt are driving growth as a snack food at main meal occasions.

    As a result, this gradual shift could change how consumers view snack foods. In 1985, NPD's National Eating Trends information found that more than 70 percent of household heads reported trying to avoid snacking entirely. In 2013, only around 40 percent said the same, indicating that snacking is no longer necessarily seen as an indulgence.

    Foods with health messages are gaining early entry to main meal occasions, with fruit, yogurt and similar items leading the shift. In contrast, items like potato chips are flat or declining during main meals. Marketers must show consumers the healthy benefits of adding their product to a main meal occasion, and convince them that it will be a good addition to common meals such as cereal at breakfast, NPD stated.

    Overall, snacks are most commonly eaten between main meals in order to satisfy a craving, tide an individual over until the meal, or to have something to do. This timeframe for snacking makes up approximately 22 percent of snack food eatings, up from 20 percent in 2010.

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