Tuesday, June 5, 2012

We’re eating smaller, frequent meals. Do you have a snack for that?

Quite a few reports have been published lately that describe how the U.S. consumers’ eating habits are changing.  One noticeable trend is that we are snacking more. 

If you are a food retailer, manufacturer, producers, restaurateur, or have another role in the food industry offering snacks could be a huge opportunity.  Think about how you, too, could meet consumer need for mid-meal or meal replacement products.  

Some reasons we are snacking more: 
  • Boredom, food budget,
  • our hectic grab-and-go lifestyles,
  • increased availability of portion controlled packaged items,
  • and weight loss/weight management programs and experts suggesting that more frequent, smaller    meals may be the key to a healthier lifestyle. 
Regardless of the cause, snacking has become a norm.  According to the USDA Agriculture Research Service, most U.S. consumers (90%) snack at least once a daily  and 62% of men and 68% of men snack two or more times a day (  

Not only has the research been published as to how often we snack, but recently the Hartman Group ( held an online webinar about snacking, titled “The future of snacking and the influence of global flavors.” During the webinar, the presenter indicated that consumers have an interest in snacks made with authentic “global” or “ethnic” flavors.  Current popular ethnic flavors included:
  • Korean/kimchi, 
  • Lebanese/falafel, and
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  • British gastro pub/pig trotters.  

Some of the flavors that we should expect to 
enjoy in the future are:
  • Nordic/caraway rye crisps, 
  • Moroccan/fennel crisps, 
  • Ethiopian/puffed millet, and 
  • Cambodian/lychee juice.  
It is easy to understand why U.S. consumers embrace ethnic flavors.  We are traveling more and are influence by the cuisines we try.  Some of us then return home and share meals made with these ingredients with family and friends.  It is also very likely that a consumer is embracing their heritage and preparing meals associated with their culture.  Or, like my family, cultures have been blended by marriage.  My sister-in-law is from South Korea and I can tell you that bulgogi (marinated beef) is delicious (especially when she uses kiwi and Sprit in the marinade).  

Whatever the reason – if consumers are eating foods with ethnic flavors at traditional meal times it only makes sense that they have an interest in snacks with a bit of these spices and tastes. 

Certainly, there are several other snack food trends that need to be considered including:

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  • Consumer interest in “natural” snacks, 
  • gluten-free options, 
  • sweet and salty combinations, and
  • low calorie options, for example. 

Deciding on the best snack for your business hinges on a few factors:
  • Snacks that complement your current offering (do you already offer seasoned popcorn, nuts or other crunch snacks?), 
  • your core products (e.g. fresh fruits/vegetables, meats, breads) and what snacks make sense for your business (if you are known for local fruits and vegetables does it make sense to offer your own brand of dried pineapple slices?), 
  • flavors or cuisine you currently focus on (can you incorporate Asian flavored products with what you current off?), 
  • your customer base (do you or could you tap into a local ethnic community that new snack offerings may appeal?), and
  • what equipment you need to process (or can your outsource manufacturing?) and stock new snack items (do you have or will you need freezers or coolers for dips and other perishables?).
Just a few things to think about as you explore how you could use trends, such as snacking, to increase sales.  

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