The 2021 State of Snacking report, developed in partnership with The Harris Poll and conducted among 3,055 global consumers across 12 countries, found mindfulness and well-being considerations are increasingly important in snacking. What’s more, 64% of consumers prefer snacking as a regular eating behavior over traditional mealtime for the third consecutive year. Notably, this trending preference for snacking spikes among younger generations, with 75% of Gen Z replacing at least one meal each day with a snack.
“Our State of Snacking report found that the definition of snacking is evolving among consumers globally, which is reshaping the meaning of snacking within people’s lives,” said Dirk Van de Put, Chairman and CEO of Mondelēz International. “Snacking is much more than a source of nutrition and indulgence; it also is a source of social connection and inspiration for broadened experiences.”
He continued: “Notably, consumers continue to prefer snacking occasions throughout the day over traditional mealtime—as this growing behavior, accelerated by the ongoing pandemic, increasingly becomes part of daily life.”
Evolution of snacking
In the wake of the pandemic’s pause, consumers around the world are assessing what snacking looks like, tastes like, and what it means to them in the context of their lives. Strong majorities say their definition of what a snack is has evolved over the last three years to include more or different types of foods, occasions for eating, or other elements (79%). This evolution is particularly strong in Mexico (91%), Brazil (91%), Indonesia (89%), China (84%), the U.S. (84%) and India (83%) where consumers are particularly likely to say their snacking palettes have evolved.
Consumers attribute some of this snacking evolution to life stage, as 82% attest that “snacks have served different purposes for me at different phases of my life.” For example, Gen Zs are more likely to snack to relieve anxiety (86% versus 76% total) and boredom (79% versus 69% total), while Millennials are the most likely generation to snack to meet their nutritional needs (85% versus 78% total), and Gen X cites comfort as a top motivator (85% versus 82% total).
As consumers’ life stages and palates evolve, they crave choices across all the products they consume. Food products are the No. 1 item consumers are looking for choice when buying, over clothing, personal care, household goods, entertainment and media. In fact, 76% say they eat different snacks today than they ate three years ago.
A nuanced approach to nutrition
Well-being is top of mind for consumers around the world, as they embrace a broader definition of nourishment. Majorities say their physical (76%), mental (78%), and emotional (79%) health are very important, with two-thirds attesting that all three pillars of health are very important (63%). This is especially true in Eastern markets where 76% of consumers are prioritizing all three areas, compared to only 54% in their Western counterparts.
Across markets, snacking is a key booster to nourishing each of these areas as consumers say they are looking for snacks to improve physical (80%), mental (75%), and emotional (80%) health. Two-thirds also say they are looking for snacks that help them improve their social health (65%), craving bite-sized ways to connect with others.
Seeking snacks on demand
According to the report, consumers are experimenting with new channels to buy snacks, with 53% reporting shopping for snacks using at least three nontraditional or emerging channels in the last year. These channels include delivery apps, online ordering for curbside or in-store pickup, and direct-to-consumer websites.
Data also found 80% of global consumers expect to be able to buy the snacks they want whenever they want with 74% of those consumers using any channel they want. This trend is especially strong in Asia and Latin America.
Google Trends analysis reveals a rising interest in composting chain efficiencies (75%) as well as fair labor practices (75%), impact their food choices. Environmental concerns (75%) and animal welfare (77%) are also equally impactful.
Consumers are growing more intentional about their purchase decisions as they become more in touch with their values. They are making more of an effort to learn more about the brands or companies and 85% say they buy or would like to buy snacks from companies that are working to offset their environmental impact and are produced in a way that is fair and lawful to all the workers involved (87%). Reducing waste is top of mind, as 78% consumers said the No. 1 environmental impact on their food choices is availability of low-waste packaging.
To learn more about market opportunities in the snack sector, check out the on-demand “Unlocking the Power of the Snack” webinar on SupplySide Network 365. Highlights include identifying the snack consumer; category whitespace and innovative product launches that address personalized nutrition, sports nutrition and children’s nutrition; ingredient trends, including healthier ingredients and formulation considerations and a CPG fireside chat on how brands are rewriting rules for the healthy snacks category—market opportunities, challenges, COVID effect, etc.