Leaves aren’t the only thing changing this fall season. Snacking trends are changing too as snack-hungry consumers (in particular, millennials) drive consumption to new heights. According to Technomic’s latest Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report, snack attacks are increasing in frequency, with 83% of consumers in 2016 snacking on a daily basis, versus 76% in 2014.1 As their lifestyles become more fast-paced, consumers look for quick food fixes in the form of snacks. And, as healthy snacks grow in popularity, many people are becoming more flexible in how they define snacks and when they consume them.Fall signals the end of summer vacation and the start of the busy back-to-school season, when people are more likely to turn to healthy snacks and QSRs as alternatives to time-consuming home-cooked meals. As the American snack trends of ease, convenience and nutritional value continue to accelerate, the rise in snacking is nowhere more apparent than on college campuses, where busy young millennials increasingly demand to-go service to satisfy their need for speed.
Millennials on the Move
In a recent article, Campus Dining Today sank its teeth into the snacking craze on college campuses. It noted that the NPD Group found that 18–24 year olds snack more than any other adult age group and substitute snacks for breakfast and lunch, while Mintel’s “Snacking Motivations and Attitudes” study reported that one-quarter of millennials enjoy four or more snacks a day.2 Maya Vincelli, assistant director of retail operations at the University of Richmond, told CDT, “[w]e have definitely seen a surge in snacking in recent years with students eating more frequent, smaller meals throughout the day.”2 Vincelli pointed out that variety is as important as convenience for them. In addition to insisting on snacking when and where they want, these young millennials “are also looking for more interesting snack choices.”
Millennials’ busy lifestyles are boosting away-from-home snacking and increasing QSRs’ share of the marketing pie. 40% of young consumers are eating snacks away from home, 1 driving the shift from at-home meals to quick service restaurant operations that accommodate their dual demand for convenience and variety.
Fall Flavor Fest: Spice Is Nice, Innovation Nicer
What are this year’s fall flavor trends for foodservice operators interested in menu innovation with millennial appeal?
Though fall and the foodservice industry are all about change, pumpkin-flavored snacks remain a perennial favorite. According to Nielsen, 37% of U.S. consumers purchased a pumpkin-flavored product in 2014.3 Year after year, limited-edition food products pile up on shelves like colorful leaves and condition the consumer to associate the flavor with fall.
Bestproducts.com has compiled an assortment of interesting twists on this flavor, many of them in the healthy snack category, including pumpkin flax granola, pumpkin pie protein bars, organic-wheat-flour pumpkin spice cookies, gluten-free pumpkin spice donuts and cinnamon pumpkin oatmeal.4
Saveur serves up a feast of hot ideas that could result in higher check averages as the temperature outside continues to fall. From Giant Apple and Dulce de Leche Pancake to Cornbread Coffee Cake with Fresh Figs and Walnut Streusel to Gjetost Crème Brûlée “with a caramel edge and surprise bite of jam,”5 these dishes go beyond the predictable to offer exotic takes on fall staples like pumpkin, cranberry and apple flavors.
Any plans to scare up fall-flavored snacks and leverage the season’s latest snack trends? Feel free to dish below.