Study: Line Between Snacks And Meals Blurring

It’s official. “Girl dinner” -- as in using snacks to make up a no-prep dinner -- is for everybody.

That’s the main takeaway from Frito-Lay’s recently released fifth annual U.S. Snack Index, which found that consumers short on time, particularly younger generations and parents, will continue to blur lines between snacking and meals.

According to the report -- the result of a December  online survey of 2,000 consumers the company says was nationally representative -- a third of Americans have just 30 minutes to prepare and eat meals, a little over half the time spent on commuting to and from work.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average one-way commute is 27.6 minutes – resulting in a daily commute time of 55.2 minutes.

“While Frito-Lay and Quaker's latest Snack Index confirms that time is scarce, the data also reinforces the fierce passion that consumers have for their food preferences," PepsiCo Foods Senior Vice President of R&D Denise Lefebvre said in a statement.  "As we look to 2024, we have a tremendous opportunity to continue meeting the evolving needs of our consumers. It has never been more important for us to infuse that inspiration with innovation.”

The Snack index outlined three main food and snacking trends it predicts will shape consumer behavior in 2024:

Time crunch. As more people have been forced back into commuting into offices and other demands on their time, 80% of Americans feel like they have fewer hours in the day, with the figure rising to 85% across younger generations. Sixty percent of respondents anticipated demands on their time only increasing in 2024.

According to the survey, the average consumer has just 52 minutes total time daily to prepare and eat meals, with a third reporting having less than 30 minutes per day. Over half of respondents reported using snacks as a component of no-prep dinner, with 51% citing a hankering for a specific snack, and 44% naming a lack of time to cook as an explanation for the decision.

Despite the “#girldinner” moniker being applied to no-prep meals assembled from snacks, the survey found men (92%) about as likely to use snack foods in meals as women (93%), while finding a 36% increase in the behavior compared to previous years.

The “Snack Savant.” According to the survey, 80% of consumers agree that combining multiple foods into an ideal snack is something of an art form, with 65% admitting to “eccentric” combinations without shame. According to the survey, 83% of millennials and 82% of Gen Z respondents showed a willingness to embrace the title. But whether or not the term catches on, the behavior behind it seems here to stay.

Snacking for tasty satisfaction. The people want protein. Fifty-five percent of consumers in the survey cited protein as the most important nutritional attribute they look for in a snack, while 79% said it was “more critical than ever” for protein to be part of their snack. Consumers are looking to snacks for energy, not just a tasty bite, with 60% turning to snacks for energy at least once a week. Millennials were the generation most likely to report such behavior, at 72%. Parents were more likely to turn to snacks for energy as well, with 72% reporting doing so at least once weekly.

That doesn’t mean consumers are willing to compromise on flavor, however. Nearly three quarters of consumers (74%) across generations said they were unwilling to sacrifice taste when choosing a snack. Older generations proved especially unwilling to do so, with 84% of boomers and 75% of Gen X-ers saying they wouldn’t sacrifice taste in their snacking.

1 comment about "Study: Line Between Snacks And Meals Blurring".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 2, 2024 at 4:57 p.m.

    I think that that "line" began to blur way back in olden times when TV first arrived on the scene and later when many women decided to pursue serious business careers rather than being big dinner cooking"housewives" as had been the case for 70-75% of their moms before WW2..

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