Snacking all day, everyday. Definition of meal time now in free fall

Snack-ization Trend Disrupts Food Business

Clarion call for new snack destination at food retail!!

Once upon time, there were three regular meals in American households. Snacks were an occasion that generally landed before and/or after dinner. Our mealtime rituals brought structure to the day: a defined beginning, an ending and some transitions in between.

Upheaval in food culture rips mealtime rituals…

However, snacks are now vacuuming up more than 50% of all food consumption experiences, thus it has transcended beyond mere ‘occasion.’ Snacking is now more of a cultural re-definition event that must be considered strategically in food buying, retailing and product innovation. Are you looking at it this way?

According to a recent report from The Hartman Group, 90% of consumers snack throughout the day. Confirming the line between snacking and meal has blurred. Their study also revealed 7% of consumers have replaced standard meals altogether with snacking. And 80% of this behavior is also “purposeful” — meaning related to a specific physical, emotional, social or cultural need.

  • Today, drinking and eating happens anywhere and at anytime. And no surprise, reflects a more flexible and informal — more fragmented and less rule oriented — way to eat.

Causation: “Today’s consumers eat around their schedules rather than scheduling around mealtimes,” says Hartman.

Snacking is code for smaller-sized portions, minimal required prep and/or clean up, and a popular venue for handheld solutions. The physical contribution of snacks seems to be relatively straightforward:

  • Nutritional input
  • Energy lift
  • Hunger management

And the Hartman study shows a parallel shift in preferences with consumers wanting more of:

Fresh fruit and vegetable choices +64%

Healthier options +61%

Smaller portions (controlled) +53%

Category to explore and sample +28%

We already know consumers want fresh, less processed, clean label, responsibly-made foods, which applies here as in every other case.

So knowing this, how should retailers respond? What guidance does this recommend?

  • It suggests to us that stores begin to experiment with rethinking the organization of products and departments meant to serve an outmoded three square meals a day. If we’re past 50% of occasions, shouldn’t snack become a priority in the store plan? And we’re not just talking about increasing linear feet to traditional snack categories.

Snack Adventure Destination!

There might be two zones within a store format: one in the perimeter area for fresh items, and also in center store for packaged options. Rather than spreading out in disparate fashion throughout various departments as salty vs. sweet, vs. nuts, vs. bars vs. baked — could a snack destination be organized with intent to remove friction from shopping and encourage creative, incremental purchase?

It’s equally relevant to kid snacking options as it is to adult. Beverages and soups are no less part of this as are solid foods — as juices, smoothies and bone broths continue to emerge as appropriate options to all day, handheld eating behaviors.

  • This all-day, all-the-time approach to food can’t help but impact the significance of meals, and then by definition, the vast investment made to honor these traditions in how food retail is merchandised and stores organized.

Assuming, of course, that store layouts might be planned around consumer food behaviors and interests more so than just how merchants have traditionally sold their inventory.

Diminishing exhaustion in favor of excitement!

Rather than forcing shoppers to push carts all over the store in a form of relentless safari hunt for snacking game (and tempting exhaustion and frustration), why not think creatively about how snacking needs can be better served with curated display. Perhaps a purposeful destination that tempts trial of savory to sweet, healthy to indulgent, or combinations of all and new global flavor adventures?

If you think snack matters beyond meal this gets to feel like a higher priority doesn’t it?