Relationship with Food

Individual Snacking Categories on the Rise in the U.S.

Hershey POV: In the Relationship With Food pillar, the Hershey's family will be interested to know that the latest consumer research shows snacks are up, expanding dollar share. The Nielsen research breaks down how different snack categories are faring in the market, and notes that health claims are driving some consumer interest, even as convenience predominates in buyer choice.


With increasingly on-the-go lifestyles, Americans are reaching for snacks to satisfy their hunger cravings between meals, and some are using them to replace meals entirely. As the individual snacking* category reaches $33 billion in the U.S., retailers and manufacturers are offering single-serve grab-and-go products to fit their needs.

Annual household spending on individually packaged snacks has increased 1.1% over the previous year with almost every household (98%) in the U.S. purchasing these items at least once for quick and convenient consumption. Busy households today spend on average $133 annually on individual snack items, purchasing them almost twice monthly (22.3 times per year) across categories. Large families—specifically with five or more members—index the highest out of all household groups, purchasing 16% more individually packaged snacks than the average family.

From 2013-2016, all individual snacking categories have seen sales increases. Individual bars (all health, meal replacement, performance, weight management, and cereal/granola bars) have seen the strongest absolute dollar growth with an increase of $633 million, followed by jerky at $547 million and individual cookies/crackers rounding out the top three, with sales gains of $469 million in just three years. Dairy snacks alone account for almost one-quarter (22%) of individual snacking dollars; however, other categories including salty snacks (+6%), cookies/crackers (+6%), jerky (+5%) and produce (+5%) are leading growth across the individual snacking market.

While growth is happening in a variety of traditional and healthy snack categories, products that call attention to specific healthful claims are driving the strongest uptick in sales. For example, snacking products that are non-GMO lead the way with an 18.2% surge in dollar sales for each of the past five years, followed by snacking products that are free from artificial colors/flavors (16.2%) and no/reduced sugar claims (+11.3%). Comparatively, the average snack product has seen an increase of only 1.2%. Even in traditionally indulgent snacking categories like salty snacks, health claims are driving sales.

Yet as consumers strive to make healthier life choices, convenience is still king. When shoppers make quick trips to the convenience store, they are purchasing less-healthful options, possibly because the healthful assortment they are accustomed to at conventional stores are not available. However, with 44.2% of consumers willing to pay premium prices at convenience stores, there is an opportunity to grow healthier snacking options in this channel. Additionally, 33% of convenience store shoppers plan to purchase fresh food at convenience stores in the future, opening up the opportunity for innovation to reach the consumer on this trip type.

As the individual snacking category expands its dollar share, there are still actions all types of retailers, as well as manufacturers, can take to ensure that consumer needs are being met. Expanding individual snacking options across all categories will provide consumers the variety they desire and keep them coming back for more. Additionally, providing quality healthy options across all channels, including convenience, will allow consumers to choose the snacking products that are right for them without sacrificing their preferred diet.



The insights in this article were derived from:

* Individual snacking definitions:

  • Jerky
  • Dairy (individually wrapped cheese, yogurt cups, ice cream cones and cups)
  • Confection (single-serve candy)
  • Salty Snacks (salty snacks under 3.5 oz., snack mixes under 5oz)
  • Fresh-cut fruits and vegetables (upc + non-upc) under 10oz; single serve refrigerated fruit smoothies and fruit jars/cups
  • Bars (all health, meal replacement, performance, weight management, cereal/granola bars)
  • Cookies/Crackers (under 4 oz.)
  • Nuts/Seeds (under 5 oz.)
  • Sweet Snacks (under 2 servings)
  • All other (Fruit snacks, snack combos with meat or cheese, snack combos with dip)

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