The Evolution of Snacking

The Evolution of Snacking

April 9, 2019
Shari Steinbach

By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor

Mealtimes were once the building blocks of the daily schedule but work, school and social accountabilities have caused meal patterns to shift. Today’s modern eating plan is more flexible and personalized and approximately 50% of eating occasions are considered as snacks. While this consumption pattern may be fun and tailored to the individual, consumers remain a bit ambivalent when it comes to snacking. While there are healthier snack options, some people may feel guilty that snacks are replacing traditional meals. Retail dietitians may also be concerned about the effect of more snacking on overall nutrient intake and health. As the lines between meals and snacks blur, there are several opportunities for retailers to meet the consumer’s need for food on-the-go while providing guidance toward nutritious, wholesome options. For example:

  • Consumers are demanding more from their snacks in terms of nutrient density. Educate shoppers on healthy options throughout the store, including new products and private brand items.
  • Fresh foods are being equated with quality and health. Provide an RD approved fresh snack list and an in-store display case with fresh snack choices.
  • Research from the Hartman Group (2017) indicate that there are 3 main drivers for snacking - nourishment (hydration, hunger, special diets), optimization (energy, recovery, mental focus) and pleasure (variety, indulgent, comfort). Healthier snacks (for nourishment and optimization) tend to occur earlier in the day and week. Use these insights to inform your educational efforts and offerings.
  • Partner with your grocery delivery or pick up program to offer weekly “snack boxes” that meet the consumer snack drivers mentioned above.
  • Provide information and tips on selecting appropriate snacks for different dietary plans such as diabetes, celiac disease or weight management. 
  • Ensure that your check-out lanes provide a balance of snack items including better-for-you options.
  • Shoppers are interested in plant-based foods and this carries over to their snacks. Connect with food companies to learn about new products in this category like roasted, flavored garbanzo beans and bean-based dips.
  • Morning snacks are the fastest growing snacking occasion. Provide a list of heathy ideas for morning commutes or to keep on hand at work. 
  • Satisfy your customer’s interest in global flavors by providing sampling demos or a display with exciting new flavor options. 
  • Parents are seeking snacks for their children that are both playful and fun. Offer demos, kids cooking classes, social posts and blogs that feature creative seasonal ideas.

Shelly Balanko, PhD, Senior VP Hartman Group, states that snacking will continue to be a meal disrupter and that the future of snacking will be more playful and global. Retail dietitians will need to keep this in mind as they plan educational programming and offer solutions to meet shopper needs.