According to Mondelēz's second annual State of Snacking Report released last week, 46% of the more than 6,200 adults surveyed in late September by The Harris Poll for the CPG giant, report they are snacking more during the pandemic than before. Of these, the report found, many are doing so as an antidote for loneliness and to connect with others during a year rife with isolation and uncertainty, rather than solely as a way to sustain their energy while on the go as they did before the pandemic.
In addition to changing why consumers reach for snacks, the report found the pandemic also changed what they are reaching for as well as how they discover and purchase them – prompting food and beverage brands to rethink their go-to-market strategies and how best to win a share of the $1.2 trillion total snack industry.
In this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts podcast, Mondelēz International’s chief strategy and transformation officer Minsok Pak breaks down the report’s findings and significance for industry. He also shares how Mondelēz is adapting its distribution, marketing and consumer outreach accordingly so that it can continue to fulfill its mission “to lead the future of snacking, with the right snack for the right moment, made the right way.”
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More than half of adults view snacking as a ‘lifeline’
While snacking has often filled the role of a treat or reward, Pak explains that since the pandemic was declared its impact on consumers’ emotional well-being has risen to new highs with more than half of survey respondents viewing snacking as a ‘lifeline,’ and two-thirds reporting snack time as one of the few moments of peace in their day.
“COVID and the pandemic have had a huge impact on how consumers are snacking, and basically everything from what, when, where and how on the snacking side … has changed during the pandemic,” Pak said, adding that he expects the impact to be lasting.
Mondelēz’s State of Snacking Report also found more than half of consumers surveyed bought nostalgic snack brands from childhood to help recreate good memories during the pandemic, which Pak notes created an opportunity for Mondelēz to introduce many of its iconic brands to a new generation of consumers.
For example, Pak pointed to a challenge on social media in which people balance an Oreo on the forehead and try to eat it without touching it with their hands. The videos are playful and give people a way to connect safely at a distance that is lighthearted and fun.
To help consumers further create positive moments through snacking as well as seize the opportunity around gifting snacks, which one-third of survey respondents reported doing during the pandemic, Pak said Mondelēz has created unique opportunities for customizing classic snacks. On the direct websites for Sour Patch Kids and Oreo, consumers can customize the packaging and treats to reflect their tastes or to commemorate special experiences.
Immunity-boosting snacks are ‘particularly top of mind’
While more consumers may be reaching for snacks as a source of comfort during the pandemic, 54% of consumers also rely on them for nourishment. As such, the report revealed immunity-boosting snacks are “particularly top of mind” for 56% of consumers.
Pak adds that many consumers continue to look for cleaner label and better-for-you versions of beloved classics, which Mondelēz has worked hard in recent years to provide. They also are looking for portion control, which is something Mondelēz advocated for years.
Part of being more mindful about snacking is knowing when to use the eating occasion as a time to reconnect with others or with yourself. According to Mondelēz’s research nearly two-thirds of respondents use snacking as a way to find a few “much needed moments” to themselves.
During these moments, 57% of snackers report being more focused on their treat of choice, and 66% report paying closer attention to and having more control over portion because they are snacking at home more often.
Ecommerce is a go-to destination for snacks
In addition to consuming more snacks at home, shoppers also are discovering and buying more snacks from home – a trend the Pak notes mirrors the larger overall trend to more shift to online grocery shopping and one that he says Mondelēz was ready for.
“We’ve been investing in e-commerce and digital for quite a bit now, and even coming into the pandemic earlier this year we had quite strong momentum in ecommerce. We grew our ecommerce business las year by more than 30%, and we’ve been investing in our capabilities on the technology side as well as our capabilities to partner with retailers and pure-play e-com platforms,” he said.
He added during the pandemic consumer interested in ecommerce exploded with around 20% of consumers saying they shopped for snacks online before COGID to close to 40% after. This increase has given the company significant runway to continue its investment in online sales channels.
When Pak says the entire breadth of ecommerce channels, he isn’t talking just about traditional retailers’ online stores or pure-play online etailers, like Amazon. Rather, he is including purchases through social media, which according to Mondelēz’s research was where three in ten respondents discovered new snacks to try.
Ultimately, Pak says that the Mondelēz’s State of Snacking Report underscores two main action items for all CPG food and beverage players. The first is acknowledging that snacking not only has increased during the pandemic but is here to stay, and the second is recognizing that to meet this demand and remain relevant to consumers, brands need to meet them where they are – emotionally, nutritionally and in terms of channel.
For those who are interested in learning more about the current State of Snacking and how best to engage with consumers during the pandemic and beyond, Mondelēz’s full State of Snacking report is available online at www.stateofsnacking.com and it provides much more detail about consumers attitudes and needs about the eating occasion.