Consumer Snacking Behavior Drives Food Industry Growth

As consumers snack more frequently, food companies are biting. The number of people who snack three to four times a day (outside of traditional meals) rose 20 percent over the past three years, according to Symphony IRI data shared at SNAXPO 2012. As a result of this snacking frequency, food companies are turning to snacks as a growth driver.

“Snacking is a long-term trend that is the future of eating, and as time passes, consumers will choose to snack instead of sitting down to a formal meal,” observes Gary Stibel, chief executive of the New England Consulting Group. Companies are leveraging the snack market in diverse ways. According to Fox Business News, Frito-Lay is adding premium and lower-priced chips to its portfolio, ConAgra is marketing frozen yogurt as a snack rather than dessert, while Kraft is taking the acquisition route by purchasing Pringles.

Consumers Willing to Pay More for Snacks
Analysts from Euromonitor Inc. point to the willingness of consumers to pay more for snacks, compared to other grocery categories, as another key business incentive. Why? Snacks are still usually a lower price point than other grocery items and often purchased to satisfy an urge. “Satiety is a key factor in the growth of snack products,” echoes Sally Lyons Wyatt at Symphony IRI.

Even higher-end snacks are seeing the ripple effect. The number of consumers who will pay more for gourmet snacks hit 34 percent in 2012, up from 18 percent in 2009, according to Symphony IRI.

Health Claims are Part of Fastest Growing Product Lines
“Calories that count” and “health and wellness” are two of the top three snack trends identified by Symphony IRI. These findings align with the United Soybean Board’s 2012 Consumer Attitudes about Nutrition study, which found 93 percent of consumers find health and nutrition information a big help when searching for healthy foods.

Food companies can leverage consumer demand with health claims on pack. In fact, the fastest growing products at General Mills are those with a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved health claim, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

More than three-fourths of parents today seek snacks with nutrients, up 20 percentage points since 2009, according to Wyatt. She adds front-of-pack protein claims rose 28 percent in the past year. 

The Food and Drug Administration recognizes the cholesterol-lowering effects of soy protein with a health claim stating that 25 grams of soy protein may reduce the risk of heart disease. Soy protein is a versatile ingredient that can enhance the nutritional value of finished foods in many grocery categories -- from baked goods to pastas and cereals.

The soybean industry also recently introduced high oleic soybean oil with zero grams trans fat, lower saturated fat and improved functionality (compared to commodity soybean oil). High oleic oil works especially well for snack foods, such as potato and tortilla chips.

To learn more about product opportunities with soy protein and soybean oil, visit 

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