From snacks to mini meals: How consumers are satisfying their cravings

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

Positioning fresh fruits and vegetables as snacks is a growing trend, notes Innova Market Insight's customer engagement officer, Virginia Lee.  ©GettyImages/klenova
Positioning fresh fruits and vegetables as snacks is a growing trend, notes Innova Market Insight's customer engagement officer, Virginia Lee. ©GettyImages/klenova
While consumers still respond to the convenience of popping open a bag of chips, their mindset around snacking has expanded to products that promise a sense of culinary adventure, conscious-sourcing, unexpected ingredients, and satiating benefits.

According to Virginia Lee, customer engagement officer at Innova Market Insights, consumers are looking for products that tackle their cravings at all hours of the day while still catering to their wholesomeness and indulgence demands – a tall order for many snack companies.

“Consumers today are cobbling together many of these snacks to create a mini meal,”​ Lee told FoodNavigator-USA.

“We all want to eat more fruits and vegetables, but we’re kind of using excuses not to eat them. Consumers’ idea of snacks has expanded beyond your snack bars, chips, fruit, and yogurt to cheese and meat snacks, eggs, guacamole, and nut butters.”

Consumers continue to look for convenience and peace of mind (nutritionally and ethically) when it comes to snacking, Lee added.

Snacking takes place at all hours of the day with some consumers "cobbling together" snacks to make "mini meals", says Lee.

‘Adultified Lunchables’ and meat snacks

Lee has seen products attempting to meet these consumer demands manifest most vividly with charcuterie-type products such as Kraft Heinz’s P3 trios of meat, cheese, and dried fruit, and Hillshire Farms’ small plates range, which includes gourmet-like bites such as wine-infused salami.

Kids snacks are undergoing a renovation in this area as well such as with Crunchpak’s offerings.“Yesterday’s Lunchables have become ‘adultified’​,” she said.

And because Americans are trying to stave off hunger at all times of day, high-protein meat snacks are still a popular choice but added attributes around those products are shifting. 

“On the whole, Americans love to eat meat and we’re not going to give up eating meat,”​ Lee said. 


However, consumers today want to ease their conscience when eating meat products which explains why a new breed of labeling has emerged such as cage-free, grass-fed, and ‘pasture’ related claims, she said.

There is also a consumer perception that grass-fed products are more nutritious than conventional dairy and meat offerings, Lee added.

Upcycling and reducing food waste

According to Innova research, the number of new global product launches with the claim “grass-fed”​ had a 54% average growth rate from 2013 to 2017.” 

The definition of healthy snacking has extended beyond satisfying immediate hunger cravings with a nutritious quick-fix to products that are also ‘healthy’ for the environment.

Consumers are embracing and considering the entire lifecycle of a product from the way in which its made to what happens to it after its done.

This has played out significantly in ethical packaging, processing, and sourcing, whether its eliminating plastic usage, using ‘ugly’ produce, or repurposing discarded (but still safe to consume) ingredients.


Lee highlighted Tyson Foods’ ¡Yappah! protein crisps​ made from leftover chicken trimmings and spent grain from Molson Coors, packaged in aluminum cans (which have higher recycling rates than plastic) as an example of a product coming full circle.

The newly-launched YAPPAH chips were also in part created by a Michelin star chef, fulfilling consumers’ desire for unique, gourmet-like flavors.

Adding value through convenience like ASDA's plastic fork and pre-cut fruit helps drive sales for fresh fruit, says Lee.

Where do fruits and vegetables stand?

Nutritionists may argue that the healthiest snack isn’t packaged at all and can be picked up in the produce aisle and according to Lee, fruits and vegetables remain an important component of healthy snacking. 

In fact, the number of global launches of fresh fruits and vegetables positioned as snacks had a 14% average annual growth from 2013 to 2017.

“While purists would consider biting into an apple the best and cheapest form of snacking… for a lot of people who are leading busy lives, on-the-go packaged fruit more closely mimics the ease of opening up a bag of potato chips,”​ Lee said.

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