State of Snacking: What the Data Shows - NIQ

State of Snacking: What the Data Shows


State of Snacking: What the Data Shows

In the dynamic world of FMCG, snacking has emerged as a vibrant and rapidly evolving segment in the Grocery Department. The snacking landscape is being reshaped by shifting consumer preferences, health and wellness trends, and technological advancements, making it essential for industry players to keep a finger on the pulse of these changes.

As consumers continue to seek out convenient, enjoyable, and innovative snack options, understanding the latest trends and data in this industry is crucial for manufacturers looking to stay competitive.

Read on for a comprehensive overview of the current state of snacking and get data-driven insights that can help FMCG manufacturers navigate this fast-paced market.

The snacking industry has undergone remarkable growth in recent years, driven by changing consumer lifestyles and preferences. Today, snacking accounts for $135B+ annually, with remarkable growth occurring in the omnichannel space.1 This growth is fueled by several factors, including increased urbanization, busy lifestyles, and the rising demand for convenient and on-the-go food options. As consumers seek quick and easy ways to satisfy their hunger between meals, the snacking industry continues to expand, offering a plethora of opportunities for FMCG manufacturers to innovate and capture market share.

In addition to convenience, health and wellness trends are playing a significant role in shaping the snacking landscape. Modern consumers are increasingly health-conscious, opting for snacks that offer nutritional benefits without compromising on taste. This shift is evident in the rising popularity of plant-based snacks, protein-packed options, and products with clean labels free from artificial additives and preservatives. Data shows that sales of healthy snacks have surged, with the segment expected to grow at a faster rate than traditional snacks. FMCG manufacturers who can align their product development with these health trends are well-positioned to meet consumer demand and drive growth in the competitive snacking market.

From the rise of health-conscious snacks to the growing demand for sustainable and ethically sourced products, the snacking industry is experiencing significant transformation. Consumers are no longer satisfied with traditional snack options; they are increasingly looking for products that align with their lifestyle choices and values. Whether it’s the surge in popularity of plant-based snacks, the emphasis on clean labels, or the impact of digital marketing and e-commerce, several key factors are influencing the snacking sector. By examining these trends and the data behind them, CPG manufacturers can gain valuable insights into consumer behavior and make informed decisions to drive growth and innovation in their product offerings.

Here are 4 key ways consumer preferences are shaping the snack market:

1. The Rise of Healthy Snacking

The demand for healthy snacking options has skyrocketed in recent years, reflecting a broader shift toward wellness-oriented lifestyles. Consumers today are more informed and conscious about the nutritional value of the foods they consume, leading to a growing preference for snacks that offer health benefits. This trend is evident in the surge of plant-based snacks, which cater to vegan, vegetarian, and flexitarian diets. Products rich in protein, fiber, and natural ingredients are also gaining traction, as they align with the health goals of a diverse consumer base. The data also shows that Better For You™ snacking products’ 4-Year velocity CAGR outpaces Non-Better For You in All Channels.2

Moreover, the emphasis on clean labels and transparency is driving the healthy snacking trend. Consumers are increasingly scrutinizing ingredient lists, favoring products that are free from artificial additives, preservatives, and excessive sugar. This demand for transparency has led to the rise of snacks fortified with functional ingredients, such as probiotics for gut health, antioxidants for immune support, and adaptogens for stress relief. As a result, FMCG manufacturers are innovating to meet these expectations, launching products that not only satisfy cravings but also contribute to overall well-being. By embracing these health-centric trends, brands can appeal to the modern snackers’ desire for both convenience and nutrition, securing a competitive edge in the market.

2. Snacking Habits: A Demographic Perspective

Snacking habits reveal intriguing variations across different demographics. Understanding these variations, from children to adults and cultural influences to regional preferences, can offer valuable insights into consumer trends and preferences. Children and adults exhibit significantly different snacking patterns. While children often prefer sweet snacks like cookies and candies from the candy market, adults tend to lean towards healthier options such as fruits, nuts, and yogurt. Recognizing these preferences is crucial for brands aiming to develop snack products targeted at specific age groups.

Cultural influences also play a significant role in shaping snacking habits. For example, among U.S. Hispanic shoppers, Cheese Snacks over-index by 183% and Corn Chips over-index by 113%.3 Additionally, regional snacking habits offer interesting insights as well. For instance, in North America, snacking between meals is a common practice, with a preference for convenient, on-the-go snacks. In contrast, in Asian countries, snacks are often incorporated into meals, with a wide variety of bite-sized options available.

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3. The Emergence of Private Label Snacking

The snacking industry has witnessed a significant shift with the emergence of Private Label brands, which are rapidly gaining market share. Retailers have recognized the lucrative potential of offering their own branded snacks, often at a lower price point than national brands. This shift is driven by consumers’ increasing price sensitivity and the desire for affordable yet high-quality products. In fact, Private Label snacks are no longer seen as inferior alternatives; instead, they are often perceived as offering comparable or even superior quality. This perception is bolstered by retailers’ investments in premium packaging, innovative flavors, and healthier ingredients, which resonate well with today’s discerning snackers. As a result, 50%+ of snack dollar growth is now from brands <$500MM and Private Label.1

Moreover, the rise of Private Label snacking is supported by strategic retailer initiatives aimed at building brand loyalty and enhancing customer experience. Supermarkets and retail chains are leveraging their extensive consumer data to tailor private label snack offerings that meet specific consumer preferences and trends. For example, they are introducing niche products such as gluten-free, organic, and vegan snacks, which cater to the growing demand for specialized dietary options. This targeted approach not only attracts a broader customer base but also encourages repeat purchases, solidifying the position of Private Label brands in the competitive snacking market. As these brands continue to innovate and expand their offerings, they are poised to challenge the dominance of traditional national brands, reshaping the landscape of the snacking industry.

4. Sustainability and Ethical Consumption

Sustainability and ethical consumption have become pivotal in shaping consumer preferences in the snacking industry. As environmental awareness increases, consumers are actively seeking snacks that align with their values, prioritizing products that are sustainably sourced, packaged, and produced. Shoppers’ sense of urgency around the changing climate is rising, with 69% saying sustainability has become more important to them over the last two years.4 Brands that emphasize their commitment to eco-friendly practices, from reducing carbon footprints to using recyclable or biodegradable packaging, are gaining favor among consumers who wish to make conscientious purchasing decisions. This trend is driving snack manufacturers to innovate and adopt sustainable practices across their supply chains to meet consumer expectations and stay competitive.

Additionally, ethical consumption is not just about environmental impact but also about social responsibility. Consumers are increasingly aware of the ethical implications of their purchases and prefer brands that support fair labor practices and contribute positively to communities. Transparency in sourcing, ensuring fair wages for workers, and engaging in community development projects are becoming essential components of a brand’s identity. Snack companies that highlight their ethical initiatives, such as sourcing ingredients from cooperatives that ensure fair pay or investing in local communities, can build stronger connections with their customers. This alignment with consumer values not only enhances brand loyalty but also positions these companies as leaders in the movement towards a more sustainable and ethically conscious snacking industry.

Understanding and interpreting snacking behaviors is crucial for FMCG manufacturers aiming to stay ahead in the competitive snack market. One of the most significant shifts observed in recent years is the movement towards personalized snacking experiences. Consumers are no longer satisfied with one-size-fits-all options; they seek snacks that cater to their specific dietary preferences, health goals, and taste profiles. This trend is driven by the increasing availability of data and insights into consumer behavior, allowing brands to create targeted products that resonate with specific audience segments. For instance, the rise of keto, paleo, and plant-based diets has led to the proliferation of snacks tailored to these nutritional lifestyles.

Another key aspect of interpreting snacking behaviors is the growing demand for convenience without compromising quality. Busy lifestyles and the need for on-the-go nutrition have propelled the popularity of convenient snack options that are both wholesome and flavorful. Consumers are looking for snacks that fit seamlessly into their daily routines, whether it’s a quick energy boost between meetings or a healthy option for their kids’ lunchboxes. Brands that can deliver high-quality, nutrient-dense snacks in convenient formats, such as single-serve packages or ready-to-eat bars, are well-positioned to capture this market segment. Understanding the context in which consumers snack helps brands to develop products that meet these evolving needs.

Additionally, snacking behaviors are increasingly influenced by social and digital media. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok play a significant role in shaping consumer trends and preferences. Snack brands that leverage these channels effectively can tap into viral trends and reach a broader audience. Social media not only serves as a platform for product discovery but also as a space where consumers share their snacking experiences and preferences. By analyzing social media interactions and feedback, brands can gain valuable insights into emerging trends and consumer sentiments. This real-time data allows manufacturers to be agile and responsive, adjusting their product offerings and marketing strategies to align with the latest snacking behaviors.

Build a Better Grocery Brand with the Full View

At NIQ, we recognize the importance of snacking data in the current marketplace. By analyzing snacking behavior, we can assist businesses in gaining a deeper understanding of consumer preferences, enabling them to make informed decisions that drive growth. Our detailed data solutions offer valuable insights into snacking trends, helping businesses enhance their product offerings and marketing strategies.

No matter your size or state of growth, NIQ provides the Full View of the market at a price that fits your budget. For emerging brands, Byzzer™ by NielsenIQ provides access to the essential data they need to successfully react to these shifting tides and build growth strategies.

Talk to our experts about new options custom-built for emerging and rising brands alike.

Don’t miss out on the market’s best data and expert insights to help you keep brand growth strong in 2024 and beyond!


1 NIQ Snackonomics Report

2 NIQ Snacking Innovation SnapView

3 Index: (HSP Category Share of Grocery / NHSP Category Share of Grocery) *100

4 NIQ 2023 Sustainability Report – Ranked on Global