Snack foods and the occasions when they are consumed are a moving target in the food and beverage world. Are Americans snacking more? Which foods are growing? During which times do people snack more often? All these parameters are in flux in our forecast of snacking behaviors through 2023.
Generation X, comprising consumers aged 38 to 53 in 2018, is moving into a life stage with older children in their homes, and some are even beginning their “empty nester” years. Historically adults in this life stage begin eating more snack foods, putting Gen Xers firmly in a growth phase of snacking. Their motivations for choosing specific foods vary, reflecting their greater acceptance of snacking. Good taste, satisfaction, and functionality are the reasons they use snack foods. Categories like fruit, nuts, and seeds are poised to grow the most among this generation, but more indulgent categories such as ice cream, muffins and donuts, and frozen yogurt are expected to succeed with them as well.
At about 25 percent of the U.S. population, Millennials will contribute a greater share of snack food consumption than Gen X. Millennials are expected to maintain their current levels of snacking, but don’t call them “static.” As with many aspects of our culture, Millennials have redefined the snack food from both the occasion and food perspectives. They occasionally stress health when choosing their snack foods, but they are more attracted to something new – such as flavors, packaging, combinations, or other examples of newness. They constantly look to snack occasions to introduce new flavors and experiences in their daily repertoires, meaning Millennials plan their snacking dayparts as much or more than they plan breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Categories that offer satiety, protein, and reduced sugar, such as meat snacks, nuts and seeds, and salty snacks, are positioned to gain share among Millennials, but this group also responds to flavor innovation.
Boomers are heading into a relative high life stage for consuming snack foods. They consider snacking the bonus daypart, ideal for everything from a work break to a small luxury after completing a task. Their needs move in two separate yet equally important directions: the need to manage health and indulging to enjoy their time. They are becoming empty nesters so their focus is back on themselves. Expect categories like ice cream on the indulgent side and fresh fruit and yogurt on the healthy side to show strong gains among Boomers in the coming years.
Gen X pales in size compared to these other generations, but its importance to the snacking universe can’t be ignored. Marketers in snacking categories and occasions need to rethink their messaging to include this group given its expected rise in relevance.