Behave Yourself! How Understanding Snacking Behavior Can Help Spur Sales

Posted in Trends on July 24, 2017

There’s a lot of buzz these days about snack trends. A smorgasbord of juicy buzzwords, including grab-and-go, wellness, mash-up, hybrid, clean label, international inspiration and numerous others, feeds the need for foodservice operators to keep pace with consumer demand for menu innovation.

picseli-6730.jpgBut what about the snacking behavior and cultural influences which fuel these trends? Foodservice operations, manufacturers and retailers require insight into the behavioral drivers behind snack trends to navigate and leverage consumer demand.

As Tamara Barnett, vice president of strategic insights for The Hartman Group, explained: “Snacking is not just an interesting phenomenon of consumer behavior … it really is a crucial demand space for product and marketing development and strategic portfolio planning.”1

Snacking is an eating behavior that continues to transform the foodservice industry, upending traditional eating patterns, blurring the distinction between snacks and meals, and rendering snacking occasions more frequent, fluid and open-ended. According to The Hartman Group, a market research firm focused exclusively on the foodservice industry, snacking has become so ingrained in our culture that it now represents more than 50% of all drinking and eating occasions, with 91% of consumers surveyed snacking multiple times throughout the day.2

Modern eating styles are characterized by increasingly frequent snacking, with 21% of consumers surveyed snacking more than in the last five years, and 42% of those respondents cutting back the number of meals eaten in a day.2 Declining food rituals related to the nuclear family, the rise of wellness trends, and the broadening and diversification of culinary options are among the factors shaping the rapidly changing foodservice landscape.2

Ain’t Misbehavin’, Just Snackified

“The modern era of snackified eating,” as Barnett described it,1 is characterized by three need states which, when understood, can help foodservice operators overcome challenges and uncover opportunities in today’s snack market:2

Nourishment: 56% of snacking occasions reflect some need for hunger relief, well-being management and sustained energy from foods whose key attributes include whole grains, fiber, protein, fat, probiotics and minimal sugar. Examples of such snacks are grain chips and crackers with wholesome dips, nut and granola bars, and smoothies.

Pleasure: 49% of snacking occasions are pleasure-driven, requiring snacks such as candy, baked goods, ice cream, chips and popcorn, which fulfill a desire for satisfaction, comfort, variety, discovery and reward.

Optimization: 34% of snacking occasions are driven by a need for quick energy, recovery, mental focus or stress management, for which products with protein, caffeine, vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and botanicals can be helpful. These products include energy and sports drinks, energy and granola bars, meat protein snacks, functional beverages and coffee.

While snacking frequency now extends across dayparts, snacking behavior ebbs and flows as the day progresses. The Hartman Group’s survey results show that the largest percentage of consumers (45%) partake in after-dinner and evening snacking, when the need state for pleasure is strongest and people are most likely to eat sweets.2 A close second is afternoon snacking (43%) for optimization, while early and mid-morning snacking for nourishment is on the opposite end of the spectrum with the least activity.2

How is your foodservice or restaurant operation adjusting to the seismic shifts in snacking behavior and the accelerating frequency of snacking occasions? Any particular opportunities or challenges you’d like to discuss?


1 Watrous, Monica, “Forecasting the future of snacking,” Food Business News, March 7, 2017
2 The Hartman Group, The Future of Snacking 2016 webinar, Feb. 28, 2017 

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