National Confectioners Association, America: A Nation of Snackers

National Confectioners Association, America: A Nation of Snackers

May 22, 2013
Retail Industry InsightsTrends

Larry Wilson, VP Customer Relations
National Confectioners Association

Just like the traditional family of four is anything but the norm these days, the era of three meals —breakfast, lunch and dinner— has come and gone. Today, snacking is happening more often than true meal occasions and has grown to define much of the way we eat. The National Confectioners Association (NCA) teamed up with The Hartman Group to learn more about the growing snacking trend and confectionery snacking, in particular.

Between-meal foods are an emerging growth engine with the average snacking frequency having nearly doubled since 1977. And growth continued throughout the recession. In 2009, 27 percent of the population snacked twice a day, compared with 51 percent in 2012. Likewise, snacking accounted for 53 percent of all eating occasions in 2012, up from 49 percent in 2010. The recorded growth in snacking is coming disproportionately, with the strongest growth for early-morning (pre-breakfast) snacks and after-dinner and late-night snacks.

While just about everyone is snacking more these days, habits regarding what, where and when differ widely, as do the drivers and emotions behind snacking from winding up in the morning to winding down at night.

Snacks have evolved far beyond the conventional categories and include more fresh products as well as beverages. According to The Hartman Group, 56 percent of all snack occasions include both food and beverages, 30 percent involve just food and 14 percent involve just a beverage. Increasingly, snack occasions are unbound by eating conventions and people may enjoy a smoothie for lunch, while eating a bowl of cereal as a snack later in the afternoon.

Snacks are diverse across day parts, moving from more instrumental items such as fruit and bars in the morning to sweets and salty snacks for late night snacks. Snacking has also become healthier over the years, both in terms of the ways of eating and product attributes. The Hartman Group has found increasing consumer belief that eating small amounts of food every few hours is healthier than a few big meals. Consumers’ strategies include distributing small treat moments to avoid over-indulgent binges and rotating indulgent and non-indulgent foods for overall balance. Moderation with the occasional little indulgence continues to be America’s top choice for eating more healthfully.

Specific to confectionery snacking, the function of the eating occasions change throughout the day, moving from instrumental to savory. In the morning, 60 percent of confectionery snacking is intended primarily to start off the day, according to consumers. When describing their afternoon snacks, their choices are primarily driven by finding a convenient and quick way to boost their energy and concentration as well as tiding them over until dinner. Many of these snacks are eaten at work, at school or on-the-go. Moving into the evening, after-dinner confectionery snacking is all about enjoyment: 50 percent want items that “delight me” and 49 percent of after-dinner snackers want items that help them relax. More than three-quarters of confectionery snack occasions after dinner include a little piece of chocolate and 31 percent are non-chocolate candy.

While there is a general trend towards more healthful snacks, the consumption of confectionery snacks is also growing and seen as a “deserved treat” for those more savoring occasions, especially after-dinner snacks.

To learn more, contact Jenn Ellek at