The Future Of Snacking: What That Means For Marketers

According to Mintel, Millennials are more likely than any other generation to snack four times a day or, in many cases, more often than that. And 94% of Americans are snacking at least once per day. Snacking now accounts for 50% of all eating occasions and America’s consumers say that snacking is essential to meeting their daily nutritional requirements.

While the eating pattern of three structured meals a day remains for many Americans, traditional mealtimes are under assault. Studies show that 37% of the time, a snack replaces a meal. Primarily due to the sales uptick for snacking brands, the CPG industry registered its strongest growth in four years.

The boundary between meals and snacks is blurring. We are changing the way we consume food and replacing what would have been a meal with snacks. No longer are Americans replacing just breakfast with a snack, we are now consuming a broader range of larger, more filling snacks. We have finally reached a place where “snack” doesn’t necessarily mean “junk.” The opportunity for brand and packaging experts is this: many food items traditionally purchased to construct a meal don’t really have much graphic packaging, but almost all snacks use packaging as a key differentiator of their product’s benefits and taste.



More products with more packaging will mean more choices and, likely, more confusion, creating an opportunity for brands with powerful packaging to cut through the clutter and stand out.

This shift is also a reflection of our mobile and transient lifestyles. As a society, we expect food, and countless other products to be instantly available for consumption. That is, if we can bear to lift our faces away from our screens long enough to eat!

The cultural shift towards snacks or meal-snacks modifies where we purchase, store, carry and consume food. And, as consumers transfer purchasing to digital, how they view the packaging and make a purchase decision is altered. We need to start thinking about how we can more simply communicate brand identity and design on packaging so that the package is beautiful and detailed in the consumer’s hand but easy to understand within the limits of the digital purchasing environment.

If consumers are demanding more portable, storable food packaging to fit their lifestyle choices, we must think about the places the packaging is used. How will the packaging look when in the cupboard or on the dash of the car? Will the packaging be stunning enough to sit on our counter or desk? Or will it be tucked away out of view of curious eyes?

This creates the perfect opportunity to look at structural design and create a more experiential relationship with snacks. What does the packaging feel like? How does it open? What does it sound like? As we come to grips with the shifting demands of this digital age, we will continue to crave analog interactions, experiences, and things that make us feel something. Brands that recognize this will be far ahead of the pack.

With packaging as the #1 GRP, we should think about how we invest precious marketing dollars. Brands that are designed based on visual trends will not stand the test of time. Instead, create a visual narrative, a story that connects to the brand strategy. The investment now builds equity for the road ahead, a brand with staying power.

Here’s my checklist for success in the world of snacks:

  • Simplify the messaging; there is so much choice now.
  • Stand for something — What is your brand narrative? Why do I care about you?
  • Think about how the packaging will look in a digital shopping environment. Design for both digital and offline.
  • Create an experiential piece of packaging that taps into multiple senses.
  • Think about who your new competitors are (it may no longer be the brand next to yours on the store shelf) and where products are stored.
  • Make sure your brand is visible, visceral and memorable.
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