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    Today's Consumers Define "Snacks" Differently

    New research says retailers haven't caught up with customers' views.

    The traditional definition of "snacks" no longer applies, according to the International Dairy•Deli•Bakery Association’s new original research, "Snacking Trends: A World of Opportunity."

    What's more, retailers have not caught up with the consumers’ expanded view of snacks and snacking, leading to lost business opportunities. The view of snacks as consisting of just cookies, crackers, chips and similar items has been rendered obsolete by an evolution in consumer behavior and lifestyle dynamics, IDDBA concluded. Only one in five Americans defines snacks as being just those products traditionally sold as snack foods, leaving a vast majority of consumers who have adopted a greatly expanded view of snacks -- one that could include virtually any type of food or beverage.

    Rather than thinking of "snacks" as a type of product, retailers should think of "snacking" as a type of eating occasion, the report advised. When consumers feel like having a snack, they no longer say to themselves "what are my choices amongst various snack food products?" but rather "what am I in the mood to snack on?" Mood, along with access and situational context, plays a key role in influencing how consumers snack.

    Health-consciousness is a prime consumer concern when it comes to snacks, according to the study. Though the stigma of snacks being unhealthy still exists to some degree, the research suggests that consumers will likely embrace snacking as part of a healthy diet that focuses on eating several small meals each day, rather than just a few large ones.

    Reinforcing this point is the observation that consumers who are positively influenced to snack by a desire to "eat several small meals a day" are far more likely to view snacks beyond the traditional sense. Within this group, only 13.6 percent define snacks traditionally, compared to more than 20 percent for the general population. As "small meal snacking" is likely to be a significant continuing trend -- it is a top-ranking cause for people to increase snacking -- retailers can expect consumers' definitions of snacking to expand as the trend endures.

    IDDBA commissioned Datassential Research to conduct the study, which explores the dynamics and trends that define snacking today.

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