Younger consumers lead snack market growth, as shift to private label continues, Circana finds

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Image Credit: Getty Images - kali9
Image Credit: Getty Images - kali9

Related tags snacking

As consumers look for quick energy boosts or moments of indulgences throughout their day, they are driving the snack market to new heights, while simultaneously becoming more critical of what they buy and trading down from premium brands to smaller sizes, Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive & practice leader of client insights at Circana (formerly IRI), shared in a webinar.

The snacking lifestyle in the US is alive and well. We have seen an uptick in three-plus snacks per day, and ... it really is being fueled by the younger generation,​” Wyatt said. “The economic situation and impacts on snacking has basically allowed consumers to not only snack but change what they’re snacking and purchase different sizes at times.​”

Snacking occasions increase, led by younger generations  

The growth in the snacking category can be partially attributed to the rise in occasions, especially among young consumers, Wyatt said.

Overall, "49% of consumers snack three-plus snacks per day that's up four points in two years, and that is an 8% growth,​" Wyatt said, citing Circana's annual 2023 Snacking Survey. And younger consumers have higher percentages, with 58% of consumers between 18-24 and 68% of consumers between 25-34 saying they snack more than three times a day.

Afternoon and evening are the most popular times for snacking, while morning snacking has grown​, Wyatt said. As mealtimes increasingly become fragmented, 29% of consumers are snacking in the early morning, with 34% of consumers between the ages of 18-24, she added.

Consumers trading down, looking to portions size

Though the snack market has remained resilient against economic pressures, consumer behavior has begun to shift, and “consumers [are] trading into mainstream value as well as into private label,​” Wyatt noted.

We found 72% of consumers look at the price before choosing what they're going to snack on, and that was actually up five points in two years. We also saw that 25% of consumers are buying what's on sale more often rather than their favorite brand at three points versus two years ago.​”

Consumers are also looking at product size for tradeoffs, Wyatt said. Overall, 61% of consumers "are looking for more convenient sizes,​" and "20% are buying less assortment of snacks for the household to save a little money,​" Wyatt said.

While some consumers are trading down from larger to smaller multi-packs or variety packs, consumers are still turning to them to meet a household’s snacking needs, Wyatt explained. In fact, 48% of consumers buy multi/variety packs for more options, and 40% buy them so family members get the snack they want, she added.

There are some consumers that need those entry price points, so you don't want to go all in on larger packages because of these trends. You've got to really weigh the pros and cons of some of the moves you make from a price-size architecture perspective.​”

Permissible indulgences, functionality still key drivers

When it comes to the type of snacks consumers are biting into, better-for-you, wellness, and permissible options are still popular, but true indulgences are gaining ground, Wyatt said. 

Per individual segments, better-for-you and wellness snacks accounted for 26.4% of the overall dollar share of the market, permissible indulgence at 24.4%, indulgence at 31.2%, and treating at 18.0%.

While permissible indulgence has seen little change year-over-year in terms of dollar share, better-for-you and wellness declined 0.9% in market share dollars and 5.0% in units year-over-year. However, indulgences gained .9% of the overall market dollar share, and units declined at a smaller .4% rate.

Better for you [is] still alive and well. It's just that consumers love their indulgence snacks. They always have; they always will. And we know that in tough times, we all want to feel better, and sometimes, that's just your favorite snack that makes you feel better."​                                                                                                               

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