With 49% of consumers indulging themselves three or more times a day, snacking has become a U.S. “lifestyle,” according to an annual survey from Circana.
“This represents a four-point uptick in two years and is predominantly driven by younger generations,” Circana executive vice president and practice leader Sally Lyons Wyatt tells CPG Insider.
Nonetheless, some snack categories are doing better than others as consumers begin to focus less on taste and more on aspects like functional benefits.
Morning and late evening have seen the biggest growth in snacking occasions, Wyatt explained in a recent webinar in conjunction with the SNAC International trade association.
While 85% of consumers surveyed by Circana still want taste they enjoy, that has dropped by eight percentage points over the past two years.
“We’ve just never seen that before,” said Wyatt.
Nearly two thirds (61%) of snackers want edibles that contain vitamins and minerals—up five points in two years—and 59% are seeking such ingredients as antioxidants and micronutrients (a four-point increase).
Combining Circana’s retail data with insights from SPINS revealed that “super mushrooms” in cookies and snack bars—along with chips, pretzels and snacks containing 15 or more grams of protein—were two big gainers in the 52 weeks ended Feb. 26.
Among sweeteners, sales of snacks containing sugar allulose—the naturally occurring sugar found in fruits like figs and dates—far outpaced those of snacks containing monkfruit or honey.
“It really has become that rising sugar alternative,” Wyatt noted. “Whether you’re looking at dollars or units, there’s tremendous growth and a lot more categories, and companies are opting in to have allulose as the sweetener.”
Even though energy drinks aren’t considered a snack category, they hold potential for CPG brands because they increasingly compete for consumer attention and needs.
“Maybe as a complement, maybe as a standalone, 53% of consumers say they drink energy drinks for fuel," said Wyatt. "But also, 35% say it’s to ‘help my mental well-being’ and 31% for immunity.
“So the message here would be, maybe partner with one of the energy drinks—if that aligns to the vision of your product and with the product essence. But also, be on the lookout, because they could be taking hold and becoming a beverage as a snack.”
Another growth driver for snacks has been licensing deals between confectionery brands.
“If we’re going to grow this universe, we have to drive household penetration and buy rate and get more consumers buying more packaging," said Wyatt. "And these are ways in which to do so.”