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Millennials and Gen Y usually get the credit for shifting U.S. eating patterns away from three square meals and toward constant grazing. But new research from The NPD Group finds that baby boomers do their own share of noshing; in fact, they snack 20 percent more often than millennial consumers. The research tracked U.S. consumers’ daily snacking habits and found boomers snacked about 1,200 times a year, resulting in 90.4 billion eating occasions. Add those billions to the 83.1 billion snacking occasions for millennials, and we’re talking a lot of snacks.
Not all snackers are alike, notes NPD analyst Darren Seifer, but demographic experts find millennials and boomers surprisingly similar in their health-mindedness. Plenty of research shows that not all snacks are alike either, but a few common denominators—fruit, chocolate candy and potato chips—are holdovers from traditional snack patterns. The real opportunities lie in functionality, sustained energy, convenience, clean labels and better health.
The International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA) finds that protein content is a big purchase driver: One-quarter of shoppers seek protein information on product nutrition labeling. This consumer demand has brought quinoa to snack chips and higher nut content to granola bars, and put meat jerky back in vogue. IRI projects jerky snack sales in the United States will grow 12.5 percent to $2.8 billion in 2015, while NPD reports jerky growth is driving new and old companies to rebrand the snack as healthful, paleo, low-fat, portion-controlled and available in more flavors; hot and spicy are particularly popular.
While salty/sweet continues to be a popular snack flavor combination, straight saltiness is getting more and more attention. Packaged Facts’ data show sales of salty snacks in the United States increased 3.5 percent, shaking out to $22 billion in 2015. Classic potato chips are still top sellers, according to Packaged Facts, with the category taking in $7.5 billion in 2015 U.S. sales. The next strongest category is tortilla chips, adding $5.2 billion to salty snack sales. Overall, Packaged Facts forecasts the salty snack market’s compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2015 to 2020 will be 4 percent.
Forecasters and analysts also urge snack sellers to think small in terms of portion-controlled packaging, bite-sized products, and shapes that accommodate easier eating on the go.
Smaller packages of prepared, ready-to-eat treats, such as cheese plates and quinoa salad
Store-made versions of favorite snacks, like soft pretzels and granola bars
House-made jerky, spiced nuts and other on-trend, non-sweet treats