Perception and reality are sometimes far apart when it comes to snacking behavior. New research from Datassential suggests that consumers are reaching more often than they think for craveable, salty favorites in between meals, while at the same time looking to fruit and vegetables as snacks more in spirit than actual consumption.
“There appears to be a disconnect between what consumers think they should be eating and what they actually reach for,” said Jackie Rodriguez, senior project manager. More than 3,500 consumers tracked their daily snacking in a diary for Datassential’s new Keynote Report: Snacking. Consumers were also asked to describe their typical snacking habits, including how often they snack on 33 different foods.
“We drilled down and asked consumers about their snacks within specific time periods the previous day, which required them to remember more accurately what they ate or drank,” Rodriguez said. “It suggests an aspirational perception among consumers. Perhaps they like to think they’re eating healthier than they really are.”
Snacking is a major part of the American diet and presents significant opportunities for both the food retail industry and foodservice operators. Nearly 95 percent of consumers surveyed reported eating a snack the previous day, and most consumers ate an average of four to five snacks outside of their regular breakfast, lunch, and dinner routines.
In addition, the research supports the idea that the very definition of snacking is changing. Sixty-two percent of consumers say that virtually any food could qualify as a snack. Yesterday’s main entrée could be today’s afternoon pick-me-up. Top non-traditional snacks include sandwiches and wraps, a slice of pizza, or a bowl of breakfast cereal.
When buying a snack away from home consumers are also looking for freshness, value, healthy options, and lower cost items. Snacks that promote good health are appealing to consumers as 71 percent say they would pay more for a “healthy” snack.
The Snacking Keynote Report combines the opinions of the 3,500 consumers with the insight of hundreds of operators from Datassential’s OPERA panel, the industry’s largest with more than 30,000 restaurant, retail, and onsite operators.