What’s The Snack Food Motivation? Check Your Watch.

By Darren Seifer, Food & Beverage Industry Analyst, The NPD Group

Health plays a major role in influencing what we choose to eat, including at snacking occasions, but depending on the time of day, health can have little to do with the foods and beverages we consume. With snacking being all the rage in the food industry, it’s important to know why and when consumers are reaching for your products.

We’ve all had days when we get home from a tough day at work or had a stressful day and one of the last things on our minds is the nutritional content of the foods or beverages we’re about to consume. Starting around 8:00 p.m., sweet snacks such as candy, chocolates, and ice cream are consumed more than any other type of snack. Snack foods with better-for-you claims in particular perform poorly during these late-in-the-day hours. Our National Eating Trends® (NET®) shows we’re highly motivated by treating or rewarding ourselves when eating at these hours, which shows how emotionally involved we are with sweets.

In today’s consumer market, sugars are now number-one on the list of what we try to avoid in our diets, and while that’s true, it would seem it’s more true the earlier we get in the day. Later in the day is when we connect with foods on a more emotional level and eat foods based more on how they help our moods. Marketers often wonder if they should reformulate their products to use sugar alternatives in order to attract consumers during earlier day parts. Since consumers have strong emotional ties to these products, coupled with the fact that they are looking for more natural or “clean” ingredients, it appears the best course of action is to win with consumers when they are most willing to consume the sweet foods they already love.

Morning is the time when we have the best of intentions for the day. It’s almost as if there is a blank slate and we have a chance to make things right for ourselves — the motivations behind the foods we choose reflect this. Morning motivations are about health and satiety; consumers see this as a chance to ingest certain nutrients they seek or look for items that can tide them over to the next meal. During these timeframes consumers eat fruit, yogurt, bars, and cottage cheese. As we go into the afternoon, many of these same motivations are in play, but we also see the rise of savory snack foods such as potato chips, pretzels, meat snacks, and nuts, many of which are consumed alongside main meals, or once again to help keep the consumer satisfied until the next main meal.

The who, what, when, where, and why all play into the decision-making process consumers employ for their snack foods.

To learn more about what motivates consumers and how that changes throughout the day, please contact darren.seifer@npd.com.

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