CHICAGO — U.S. consumers are increasingly turning to fruits, nuts and ready-to-eat snack foods throughout the day as a way to treat themselves, decompress from stress or for a quick meal, a new report from The NPD Group finds.
Since 2015, consumers added 25 between-meal snacking occasions per capita, bringing the total number from 505 to 530 in 2020. Additionally, snack food consumption at meals increased from 21 percent in 2010 to 26 percent in 2020, according to NPD's Eating Patterns in America, an annual compilation of the market research firm's daily tracking of U.S. consumers' eating behaviors.
"America is a nation of snackers and we're no longer as averse to snacking as we once were. Instead, snacking is viewed as a way to have a quick bite in between meals or as a convenient meal side," said Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. "Snacking is woven into the fabric of our daily lives, and this way of thinking provides endless opportunities for food and snack marketers."
The report found that households' health-driven motivations give way to satiety as the day progresses. In the morning, consumers partake in better-for-you snack foods, like fruit or yogurt, followed by savory snacks, like potato chips or tortilla chips, at lunchtime, and more sweet snacks, like chocolate candy and cookies, in the evening.
Although snacking was already on the rise prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the pandemic accelerated snacking and snack food consumption. According to NPD, having sufficient snack foods on hand during the pandemic is important to 37 percent of consumers, whose households are well-stocked on salty snacks and frozen sweets more than other items.
And, in many cases, the more snack food packages in the home, the more frequently the item is consumed, which tends to be especially true of certain types of snack foods. For example, consumers who have five or more packages of crackers or salty snacks consume those foods at higher rates than consumers with fewer packages in their home, the report found.