Salty snacking: Research shows more people eating on the go

Just because people are snacking more doesn't mean they want junk food. Opportunities abound for healthy, filling, durable snacks.

The amount of snacking for U.S. consumers has increased in the past two years, according to a recent study conducted by the research group, Mintel.

This trend provides an opportunity for the development of more snack formats related to salty snacks such as tortilla chips, popcorn, and crackers. Those that provide a boost in nutritional makeup and heartiness may be seen as options for meal replacements.

Consumers on the go are looking for something more than the empty-calorie snacks meant for pure indulgence. Michigan State University Extension and the MSU Product Center—Food, Ag, Bio, suggest that products which provide a nutritional profile that meets daily dietary requirements will be appealing to consumers who are replacing regular meals with snacks and might even allow for reduced-guilt snacking.

Snacks having a slightly higher nutritional profile may be seen as an acceptable alternative to eating a full, higher-calorie meal. For those consumers who want to take their snacks with them, packaging innovations can help a product stand out from the crowd. With snacking taking place on the go, in their cars, at school, at work, and in other situations, considerations such as crush-proof packages as well as single-serving and resealable formats get high marks for convenience.

Additionally, positioning snack foods as side dishes, meal components and for use as ingredients in main- or side-dish recipes can be promoted as a way of appealing to a large variety of consumers. Trials of new products and their uses is most appealing to the younger consumer and investment in this demographic has the potential for long-term connections with the products they find appealing.

While affordability continues to be a consumer concern, specialty and premium products have been shown to have a place in the market. There is a higher than average level of purchase and consumption among high-income respondents who are often more interested in the hand-crafted or artisan made products and are willing to pay the higher price. Categories that remain active in the market place include those that are locally made, organic, and hand cooked.

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