Snacking, Not Just for Kids Anymore

Posted by Josette Dunn on 1st April 2010

Gone are the days when children were reprimanded by parents for snacking in between meals.  Today snacks are seen as an important tool for managing hunger, for children and adults alike.

While experts often disagree about what foods and eating habits are healthy, current opinion is generally in favour of snacking, as long as we are snacking on ‘healthy’ foods.

Thanks to a recent advertising campaign, the term ‘3.30-itis’ is now popular jargon for the commonly experienced mid-afternoon drop in energy and alertness.  The answer to 3.30-itis?  Snacking of course!

Reports in the U.S. show that between 1977 and 2002, the percent of the American population eating three or more snacks a day increased to 42 percent from 11 percent. (Source: USDA and DHHS joint study)

Increased demand for snack foods was quickly answered by the food industry, who rushed to provide us with a huge variety of snack foods, to meet every different taste or snacking occasion.  There are now at least five distinct snacking occasions surrounding the three main meals each day, that we can measure and model significant patterned snacking behavior around:

* Early morning
* Morning
* Afternoon
* After dinner
* Late night

When snacking was less common, the phrase referred to particular kinds of food. Today, almost any food or beverage product can become a snack. Snacking has changed from being about particular types of food, to being the way in which that food is consumed. The word “snack” now includes far more than the traditional sweets, biscuits and crackers.

While one person may decide that your product fits a specific snacking occasion and only consume it then, another customer may think of it entirely differently.  The same product now moves easily in and out of different snacking occasions, as well as in and out of the snack category altogether.The implication here is that that food or beverage marketers may find that their view of their product is much narrower than that of its consumers. The very same product may serve as a snack between meals one day, a lunch food the next, or breakfast on the way to work the following day.

This fluid status of different snack foods is a particularly beneficial ambiguity for producers and marketers. It extends the social life of a product and brand, expanding it’s usefulness in your customers’ everyday lives.  An awareness of this trend opens up the possibilities and opportunities available in the snack food market, inviting food producers and marketers to be more innovative with their products, and the way they present them.