Opportunities in the snack food market

Three square meals a day is a thing of the past. Today busy consumers, especially Millennials, seek methods to supplement nutritional necessities. People considering entering the snack food business are well positioned to take advantage of this trend.

Are you hungry? One quarter of 18-34 year-olds are always hungry according to Mintel. Moreover, 17 percent for 18-24 year-olds report that they do not have time for meal, which is where snacks come in. Overall, 15 percent of snackers are always hungry. Snacks ease hunger craving and are easy to go-to for quick satisfaction.

Almost all (94 percent) of adults in the U.S. snack daily. Faster, easier and efficient ways of consuming food are essential. Snack food producers are positioned to help meet the nutritional needs of busy consumers.

This leads to an opportunity for food manufactures to connect with consumers with a wide array of product types and marketing approaches. Multiple points of entry into the snack space exist. 38 percent say anything can be a snack. Mintel reports also indicates increases in snacking activity among less frequent snackers is also on the increase, 16 percent more in 2017 than 2016.

When the line is blurred between regular meals and snacks, consumers benefit from snacks that have nutritional value that help meet their daily nutritional needs. For instance, a product seen as a treat, could also serve as a good source of protein. Benefits from high quality snacks foods also include emotional wellness, functional outcome and help facilitate social outlets.

For snack foods to compete with quick serve restaurants, convenience is key. Packaging allows for portioning and on-the-go snacking, eliminating food prep times. Snacks also are easy to obtain in retail environments.

Snack delivery services are an emerging trend and could be more significant in the future with players like Amazon. Currently only 5 percent of snacks are sold online. This could be seen as supplement to snack acquisition. Especially in the healthy snack category.

Younger adult consumers exhibit health-consciousness food awareness and are looking for whole foods, protein and simple ingredients. This approach is working in the snack food segment. Nutrition bars, meat snacks and small indulgences such as cookies, ice cream and chocolate have premium attributes. Also important drivers like allergen (nuts, dairy) and gluten free have shown a 25 percent increase from 2013 to 2017 in new launches.

The importance of and opportunity in the snack space is undeniable. While 44 percent indicating that brand is important and 36 percent look for value, additional drivers include natural ingredients (26 percent prefer) and organic sourced ingredients (13 percent prefer).

Once more, snack frequency appears to be growing and snacking patterns suggest that snack makers that can deliver on the needs of snackers desires can keep them engaged as they age, according to Mintel Reports.

Michigan State University Extension educators working with the MSU Product Center help those wanting to or already in business understand and take advantage of trends in the food industry.

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