Distracted eating is something that many know all too well. Someone is having a bad day, wanders into the kitchen and suddenly a whole shell of Boy Scout cookies is gone.
Oops. Another “accident” happens. It was the quintessential tension-filled coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic snack, said Davey McHenry, Hartman Group’s senior vice president of operations. People were at home and didn’t know what the next day would bring.
“You don’t pay attention, and the next moment it’s gone. ‘I am stressed. I am frustrated. I’m snacking to comfort myself,’” Ms. McHenry said at the recent meeting of SNAC International, SNX. “At the start of the pandemic things were uncertain and we were stuck at home with limited options. We have seen many consumers revert to the habits they used to eat as children because of this convenience. We’ve had consumers say, ‘I bought Blue-Box Mac and Cheese, not for the kids, but for myself because I needed something to make me feel better.’ ”
Americans are big on snacks. Half of the diet in the United States today is snack-based, said Melissa Abbott, vice president of retainer services at Hartman Group. Snack makers are vying for them by offering flavor innovations, limited-time offers (LTOs), and more.
“Our snacks really anchor us more than we do in other cultures,” Ms. Abbott said. “Compared to other cultures, it is culturally more acceptable to snack anytime, anywhere. You’ll see people eating on the street, at Home Depot, literally eating from the hot bar at a Whole Foods, and then walking through the store and doing their shopping.”
People snack for many reasons and to meet a variety of needs. Ms. McHenry has broken it down into four categories: nourishment, optimization, pleasure, and distraction.
Consumers tend to start their days and weeks on a positive note by snacking for health and nutrition. This includes finding foods that give them sustained energy, like a high-protein, low-sugar bar or a snack that provides healthy fats. Optimization means snacking to increase energy, reduce anxiety, or improve mental focus, such as: B. a snack with ashwagandha.
Ms Abbott added that Americans are looking to snacks to improve nutrition by mimicking meals.
“Our snacks are just as important in American culture as our meals,” she said. “So we try to fill in those gaps with nutrients, whether it’s fiber, protein, good fats or healthy carbs. We make sure that our snacks are representative of the things that should appear at our meals.”
In a recent webinar, Sally Lyons Wyatt, IRI’s Executive Vice President and Practice Head, said the company’s research found consumers are turning to truly enjoyable snacks.
“Everyone told me before the exam, ‘I guarantee you, things will get better for you/your well-being,'” she said on the IRI webinar Seesaw State of US Snacking. “Well, surprise. It was all about reward, indulgence and enjoyment, which continued into 2020 and 2021. It really shows the balancing act consumers 21 and 20 have struck between eating right, but also enjoying and rewarding. And treating and rewarding is really where we’ve seen a lot of growth. However, that doesn’t mean that indulgence and wellness haven’t grown from a dollar perspective. They did, but you can see that from a unity perspective, they lost.”
Many large snack manufacturers have found themselves in the pillar of success in recent sales. Hostess Brands Inc., Lenexa, Kan.; Frito-Lay North America, Plano, Texas; Kellogg Company, Battle Creek, Michigan; and Hershey Co., Derry Township, Pa., recently reported that their snack food brands have helped financially advance the companies, with most brands citing innovation as a key growth driver.
“Our largest portfolio segment, developed market snack foods, continued to generate strong growth, led by world-class brands such as Pringles, Cheez-It and others,” said Steven A. Cahillane, Kellogg’s chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement dated May 5 Investment Analysts Conference Call. “And our emerging markets collectively saw double-digit growth.”
In prepared comments on the first quarter results, Frito-Lay said many of its large, trusted brands delivered strong growth during the quarter, with Doritos, Lay’s, Ruffles and Cheetos each posting double-digit net sales growth.
“Variety pack offerings continued to grow net sales at a strong double-digit rate as consumer demand for portion control, variety and convenience remains strong,” the statement said. “Frito-Lay also continued to expand its large, trusted brands, delivering consumer-driven flavor and texture innovations with Dorito’s Flamin’ Hot Cool Ranch and Lay’s Layers.”
This article is an excerpt from the June 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire article on snacks, click here.