According to the research company, Americans are giving themselves permission to enjoy indulgent snacks as long as they do it sensibly.
Balance is key when it comes to harmonizing health and indulgence.
NPD’s Future of Snacking study notes producers are on the mark with portion-control packs, thinner versions or nutrient-enhanced sweet and savory snacks to help consumers with their goal.
“The role of snack food is changing in different ways in reaction to Americans’ desire for balance, portable snack foods and holistic wellness,” said David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America.
“It’s no longer about depriving yourself of something you enjoy eating.
“Today it’s about giving yourself permission to eat indulgent snack foods in moderation.” - David Portalatin, NPD
“Today it’s about giving yourself permission to eat indulgent snack foods in moderation,” he added, noting that snack food manufacturers have figured out ways to offer the permission to enjoy.
Morphing main meals
Americans consumed nearly 386 billion of ready-to-eat snack foods last year, with the vast majority of those eaten between main meals.
However, the research company found snacks are being consumed at meals or even replacing meals.
“Snack foods continue to evolve both as between-meal snacks and as part of main meals,” said Portalatin.
When it comes to indulgent treats, most consumers tend to slip these in later in the day, either as a dinner or late evening snack.
Breakfast snacking, though, is on the rise, which makes sense as breakfast tends to be an on-the-go behaviour and snack foods answer that need for speed and portability.
Opportunities for producers
Overall, indulgent snacking occasions are driven by cravings, the need to reward oneself or being tempted by a favorite, which NPD reports will continue to grow over the next five years.
“Snacking is no longer just about eating when you’re bored or eating for additional sustenance,” adds Portalatin.
“Today and in the future, snacking is about solving small problems for consumers, and those problems present opportunities for food marketers across a variety of dayparts and needs.”
The ‘be well’ need is largely satisfied by whole foods and natural ingredients, with fruit being the first choice, followed by yogurt, nuts and seeds, snack cheese and then energy bars.
To break it down further, NPD forecasts consumers over 40, Gen Xers and younger Boomers will drive the growth of nuts and seeds, cereal bars, toaster pastry and meat snacks.
Older Boomers are going for it with higher consumption of frozen novelties and chocolate-based treats.