The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of consumer behavior and daily life. The grocery market experienced much faster than average growth in 2020 since people were staying at home more than usual due to remote work and schooling. Because of being home more during the pandemic, consumers are snacking more. While telecommuting, snacking at home throughout the day is more convenient for some people than eating traditional meals during working hours. Consumers are especially interested in better-for-you snacks as concerns about health have increased.
What Are Better-for-You Snacks?
Better-for-you snacks are positioned as healthier than conventional snacks, based on health claims and characterizations that consumers perceive as important to health such as clean label, low fat, low sodium, plant-based, and low/no added sugar. Snacks with claims that are better-for-you feature good taste, indulgence, and convenience while being healthier than standard snacks by virtue of nutrition or portion sizes. Thus, these snacks have been especially well positioned during the pandemic as more people have been looking to improve their health to prevent or lessen the severity of illness. According to Silvia Soragni, global savory product manager at Lallemand Bio-Ingredients, “The face of snacks is changing, as empowered consumers increasingly seek tasty, healthy, and nutritional foods.”
Younger Adults Driving New Product Development
Younger adult consumers are of particular importance to the better-for-you snack market. Those between the ages of 18 and 34 are most likely to say they snack often, particularly the 18-to-24 demographic. These younger consumers are also more likely to have been changing their snacking frequency during the pandemic.
Those adult members of Generation Z who are age 18 to 24 largely consist of college students and consumers working their first professional jobs. These consumers snack the most often, possibly because they may have the most erratic schedules (not eating regular meals or eating meals at uncommon times and snacking more throughout the day). This demographic is also more likely to be vegan or vegetarian (key snackers).
The 25-to-34 demographic is composed of younger Millennials, who are the most likely to shop for groceries online – so online snack sales are important to this demographic. Millennials tend to place more value on premium food labels such as “organic,” “clean,” and “natural” than their younger counterparts, so labels in the better-for-you snack arena are especially important in reaching them.
Most snack makers target these younger groups aggressively, paying special attention to diet trends that are more prevalent in younger generations (such as plant-based/vegan, gluten-free, and clean label). Better-for-you snacks in many diet areas are targeted at younger consumers because there is more interest in special diets among these age groups. According to an article in the Progressive Grocer, manufacturers are releasing a number of “alternative” better-for-you snacks in a variety of new flavors that primarily appeal to younger shoppers.
However, it is also important to note that many consumers in all age groups (including older consumers aged 55+) say they snack often. There is an opening for better-for-you snack marketers to reach these consumers for increased sales as well. Older age groups also have health concerns, particularly for conditions that are common in older age such as arthritis and diabetes.
Food as Medicine
Many consumers believe in the concept of “food as medicine” and eat healthy foods to prevent health problems or treat specific symptoms they are experiencing. For some, the pandemic has inspired more focus on healthy living in general – regular exercise, more whole foods, etc. – and not just susceptibility to illness. Snacks in the better-for-you space are appealing to those who want to make small changes for big results.
Where to Learn More
Additional analysis of the market for better-for-you snacks can be found in the 2021 Packaged Facts report Better-for-You Snacks: Market Trends and Opportunities.
About the blogger:
Cara Rasch is a food and beverage analyst for Packaged Facts. She studies consumer and industry trends in this space and has a B.A. in economics from Allegheny College.