Why is America Snacking So Much More in 2023?

The numbers don’t lie: America is snacking now more than ever. In 2023 and beyond, we can expect to see snack purchases soaring alongside a wider variety of snacks in general.

We’re going to go through how snacking has increased, what consumers are looking for when they hit the snack aisle, and most importantly, why?

And, of course, how snack companies can prepare their marketing for this sudden influx of demand. 

Snack Consumption is Increasing Every Year

According to Mintel’s “Snack, Nutrition, and Performance Bars” study for 2023, 42% of those polled said they were buying the same amount of snack bars they always have, while 28% (nearly a third) said they were buying more.

Mintel’s “Salty Snacks” 2023 survey bore out similar numbers: this study covered snacks like chips and popcorn as opposed to snack bars. But even with a different category of snacks and an entirely different group of survey-takers, the percentages were in the same ballpark. 55% said they were eating the same amount of snacks, and 27% said they were eating more. 

Meat snacks like jerky, pepperoni, and other RTE snacks told the same story. The “Meat Snacks Market Forecast” by Renub Research is predicting the meat snack market to grow from 9.5 billion in 2020 to over 14 billion by 2027. Future Market Insights forecasts the market will jump to over 23 billion by 2032. 

So America (and the world, honestly) is dipping into the snack drawer more often in every category of snack.  

The next–extremely reasonable–question you’re going to ask is, of course, why? 

Convenience and Comfort Motivate Snackers

You might think the stressors of the pandemic era, a war in Europe, and an increasingly divided nation are thrusting American hands into chip bags, and you’d be . . . possibly on the right track? Comfort is a popular answer in all of these studies.

And what is comfort, after all, but relief from stress?

The nutrition bar study by Mintel showed that snack bars were mostly being eaten at home, often as an afternoon snack for children. This could point to parents being too slammed from work to prepare a snack: unwrapping a bar is much easier. 

For chips and popcorn and other salty treats, that study showed that price was the number one reason for purchase. So, you can fill up on a quick, ready-to-eat snack for relatively cheap. This makes sense, considering inflation has caused even traditionally cheap meals like scrambled eggs to skyrocket in price. So if consumers can fill up for the same price, but snacks don’t require any prep, cooking is less attractive as an option. 

The survey on meat snacks asked why snackers are buying and eating more, too. The top two answers? Convenience and comfort. A meat snack is higher in protein, so eating one as a meal replacement is even more viable than a bag of chips (for those who eat meat, anyway). 

Now, replacing a well-balanced meal with a less-than-balanced snack seems perhaps unwise. Well, it turns out consumers feel the same way.

People Want Some Health Benefits from their Snacks

Likely due to the rise in snacking, potentially as a meal replacement, consumers are also asking for their snack of choice to do more.

When asked by Mintel what motivates them to try a snack bar, 42% picked marketing claims of energy support. The second most popular answer, at 37%, was for snacks that claim to support gut health. Third, but only just behind, were claims of weight loss support. Consumers are most motivated to grab a snack bar if it’s giving them pep, easing a sour stomach, or helping cut a few pounds. 

The salty snacks survey found that consumer motivation to try was primarily based on something that felt healthier. That also makes sense: no one thinks chips and popcorn are super health-conscious. But if people are eating more chips (and we know they are), worries about adverse health effects are front of mind for many shoppers.  

When it came to meat snacks, people want better nutrition. Future Market Insights found that consumers were looking for things like vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and iron in their RTE meat snacks. Snackers were also looking for plant-based “meat” snacks to fill the craving (and the tummy) without animal involvement. 

Flavor and Novelty Are Huge Snack Factors

Of course, not every snacker is focused solely on the health aspects. Taste is, and always will be, a major motivator for snack exploration.

When asked why their snacking has increased over the past few years, both those polled in the snack bar survey and those polled in the salty snack survey ranked “flavor” as their second most popular answer. 

Novelty is a basic human desire, and the quick and easy nature of snacks means people are generally more likely to try a single chip from a bag rather than commit to something like a whole meal or a new restaurant. 

This is why experience and sampling will be even more important for snack companies than its ever been. The market is going to get bigger, but it’s not all unicorns and summer evenings for snack companies. A bigger market means more competition and more fickle shoppers. 

To learn how to use experiential marketing to get this expanding crowd of snackers on your side, reach out to Inspira Marketing


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