The evolution of snacking

New research reveals Canadians are updating their preferences and are seeking a middle ground when it comes to snacks—no guilt, no missing out

Snacking continues to be a dominant force in the reshaping of Canadian eating patterns. While about a third (33%) of all occasions throughout the day are at traditional meal times, the balance (67%) of eating and drinking occurs at snack or in-between meal occasions, according to the brand new Ipsos FIVE Canadian Snacking Nation 2018 report.

Trended information captured over the past five years confirms that the factors defining a snack have changed quite dramatically. Most foods, for example, qualify as having snack potential, which extends the snacking landscape far beyond a relatively small group of treat-oriented, indulgent options to now include beverages and foods once positioned strictly for breakfast, lunch or dinner meals (see chart below right). ipsos-world-of-snacks

While convenience, availability and taste are still point-of-entry needs for snacking, Canadian consumers are unwilling to sacrifice quality for ease of access. They also seek more and more fresh, less-processed items; demand a higher degree of ingredient transparency and simplicity; and require their choices to provide premium benefits and meet a higher quality of experience.

With the rise of technology and the trend towards conscious consumption, it seems Canadians are updating their approach towards snacking.

To effectively target today’s snacking needs, we must recognize the growing importance of the middle ground that intersects physical functionality and emotional well-being. Consider the following emerging need states as key opportunity areas:

Planned indulgence: More than three-quarters (76%) of all items sourced as a snack are part of a planned purchase. While more indulgent snack food choices have tended to be higher-impulse purchase items, consumers are reporting that they are more frequently planning their snack purchases.

Mindful choice: The gap between “what I say” and “what I do” is closing, as a growing number of consumers explore and evaluate their snacking choices. More than half (51%) of Canadian adults today report regularly reading labels and ingredient information. Among those, more than two-thirds (69%) report that the information they obtain informs their decision to buy a product.

Mood-lifting health: The desire for internal pleasure is a key factor in determining which snacks consumers choose. As a consequence, products consumed to meet mood-lifting health needs (such as cheering oneself up, relaxing and unwinding, promoting mental harmony and balance, and feeling less stressed) are wide and expansive. Options range from fresh fruit to chocolate to wine.

Personal health: Personalized health will undoubtedly continue to focus on meeting individual goals centered on proactive wellness, dietary sensitivities, and managing health conditions. Almost a quarter (24%) of consumers today select their foods or beverages to meet a wellness goal such as boosting energy, aiding digestion or enhancing skin, hair and nail health.

While shifting needs and preferences are driving change in category and brand choices, at the heart of snacking is the need for gratification. Knowledgeable consumers are seeking the middle ground as the route to feeling satisfied, feeling neither guilty about their indulgent choices or that they’re missing out with their healthier snack choices. As Canadians update and redefine their approach to snacking, opportunity abounds to factor these trends and behaviours into your growth strategies.

Kathy Perrotta is a VP of Marketing with Ipsos Canada and leads the FIVE service, a daily diary tracking of what individuals ate and drank yesterday across all categories/ brands, occasions and venues.

This article appeared in Canadian Grocer’s June 2018 issue.