Snacking trends – healthy, plant-based and more

4 July 2022

We’ve definitely seen a rise in snacking behaviour in recent years. A recent YouGov survey found that 45% of consumers globally say they often snack between meals. But are the snacking trends and what are we snacking on?

While the three meals a day diet has long been established in the modern consciousness as the traditional eating pattern, this wasn’t always the case. Some experts still argue it’s best to have one meal a day, in line with the views shared in Roman times, where breakfast was actively frowned upon. Whereas many ancient Greeks would consume bread soaked in wine as soon as they woke up.

Fast-forward to today, and it seems we have entered a new age: the rise of the snacker. Snacking counts as any food consumed between meals, whether it’s high-calorie items such as crisps, ice cream or chocolates, or healthier alternatives. So, you are technically snacking, even if you’re just reaching for a celery stick after lunch.

Snacking trends post-pandemic

Stress, boredom, and frustration also influence our behaviour. The pandemic had a part to play in our latest snacking habits. Coupled with this, our increasingly busy lives and affinity for convenience continue to drive these trends. According to Statista, the Snack Food segment will achieve a global revenue of US$498.30bn this year, with the market expected to grow annually by 4.16% up to 2027.

Who are the most likely snackers?

However, there is some divergence when it comes to different countries. A survey of 2,000 adults across the UK, France, Germany and the US shows that Brits are among the consumers more likely to snack.

More than half of Brits (30.3 million adults) say they snack between meals. That’s a significant number, but not quite as high as in the US, where two-thirds of people (equating to over 166 million adults) are considered snackers. By comparison, the figures are lower in France and Germany, with the survey showing that less than half of consumers in Germany and just a third of those in France snack in between meals.

Snacking Trends data and insight from YouGovDiving deeper into consumer profiles offers even greater insight into the most likely snackers in the UK. The YouGov survey shows that British snackers are ‘more likely’ to be young females with middle or low incomes.

What are consumers snacking on, and why?

Interestingly, consumers admit they sometimes snack out of boredom. Further insights from the YouGov survey show that 53% of consumers reach for a snack to keep hunger at bay, while 46% are looking for something to keep them going.

When it comes to healthy snacks, 35% of consumers in the US reveal a preference for high protein content, while this is a priority for only 19% of Brits. The research shows that the UK is currently lagging behind the other markets in this section, a sign that the UK market will catch up – for snack producers, this should serve as an excellent place to focus on.

Plant-based options are another popular avenue – with nearly a fifth of German consumers prioritising this, while across the UK, France and the US, the figures are more consistent at around 13-15%.
But whether this is reflected in consumers’ actual choice of snacks is another story.
In the UK (where we consume more crisps than everyone else in Europe put together), the nation’s favourite snacks are chocolate bars: Kit Kat, Maltesers, Galaxy, Wispa, and Twix.
The picture is similar across the board, with sweets, crisps and chocolates among the most popular snacks – only in France does this diverge, with biscuits and dessert brands such as Lu and Bonne Maman making their mark.

What should food producers consider?

While the YouGov survey reveals that the market appetite for snacks is ripe, further consumer research demonstrates that there is also a generational difference in terms of what consumers are looking for. Baby boomers, for example, rely more on the traditional three square meals a day and therefore less on snacking. Meanwhile, Generation X is “highly oriented for snacking as nourishment”, while millennials look for convenience.

What’s clear is that there are plenty of opportunities for food producers looking to tap into this increasingly popular market. If you’re looking for further insights and support, please get in touch.