'Tell me more, tell me more': Summer loving with the US Snack Index

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Snacks are an essential component of summer fun. Pic: GettyImages
Snacks are an essential component of summer fun. Pic: GettyImages

Related tags Pepsico Frito-lay Quaker oats US Snack Index summer 2023 snackification Circana Iri Npd group consumer behavior

The first-ever joint Frito-Lay x Quaker US Summer Snack Index shines a light on the snacking supernova and the evolving consumer preferences and habits that will enhance summer experiences.

“Food is an important centrepiece for the joy that summertime brings,”​ said Denise Lefebvre, senior VP, PepsiCo Foods R&D.

“We are deeply invested in understanding what our consumers want so they can have the right flavours, variety, snack styles and even packaging options all season.”

According to Circana - another recently formed JV between IRI and NPD - snacking is still very much a lifestyle among Americans,​ with 49% enjoying three or more per day.

In the past, the snackification habit (the art of grazing throughout the day) was fuelled by younger generations, but this influence has now filtered across the board.

While resolutions are maintained earlier in the day, temptation eventually wins and regular snacker typically relent to cravings in the afternoon (66%) and evening (59%).

Not surprisingly, the cost-of-living crisis has impacted purchasing behaviour, with 72% of consumers swayed by price and 25% choosing sale items over favourite brands.

That said, snacking very much remains a lifestyle among Americans.

Frito-Lay share

According to Frito-Lay/Quaker, this behaviour - including the anticipation of a summer travel surge - provides an important yardstick for the evolution of food preferences and purchasing decisions.

“Americans snack more in the summer, whether they're inside, outdoors, or on the move. From boosting road trip morale to complementing an outdoor potluck, today's data confirms the integral role that snacks will play in many of this season's shared moments and activities,”​ said Lefebvre.

Road tripping

Road tripping Getty
Pic: GettyImages

85% of Americans plan their snacks before hitting the road, with three-quarters of them noting this offers a chance to enjoy things they’ve never tried before.

Road trippers under 40 years old are twice as likely to prioritise a pitstop for their preferred snacks over a clean bathroom.

Snacks provide an important morale boost during long road trips (43%), are key to staying sane in traffic (39%) and used to dissipate uncomfortable car silence (44%).

41% - especially Millennials and parents - would rather have control over road trip snacks than the music.

The ultimate soiree

Outdoor barbecue Getty
Pic: GettyImages

Snacks are a universally loved treats (74%) that are easy to share (63%). Frito-Lay and Quaker provide a raft of wacky snack-inspired recipes - think Lay’s potato chip brownies, Doritos Flamin’ Hot Cool Ranch crispy chicken sandwich and Banana oat mug cake - to ensure the host gets more smiles from every bite.

Avoid the worst barbecue blunders of overcooked food (70%), waiting too long (62%) and not having enough snacks or appetizers (51%).

Bringing uninvited guests is this summer’s worst party foul among Baby Boomers (70%) and Gen-Zers (55%).

Get outdoors

Sports cartoon Getty
Pic: GettyImages

53% of Americans consider post-game snacks to be more important than winning the game, with women (59%) considering this a vital component to sports day than men (46%).

42% feel being in charge of after-game snacks is more stressful than getting kids to the game on time, with dads (46%) being more anxious over the post-game ritual than moms (38%).

Nearly 60% say snacks can make or break beach days, citing dropped snacks in the sand (42%) and running out (34%) as critical beach bummers.

Multipacking it

Cartoon hand with chips Getty
Pic: GettyImages

For the road trip or outdoor occasion, consumers are more likely to purchase snacks that are conveniently packaged (79%) or individually wrapped (52%). While parents go for variety (70%) ahead of convenience (64%), flavour still rules.

This is backed by Circana data, which found that 48% of consumers choose multi/variety packs for more snacking options.

40% of parents lean towards these options so family members get the snack they want; 39% consider them more affordable options; 32% use them for portion control; and 29% believe they help control food waste.

Summer snacking, give me a blast


You asked and PepsiCo’s mega brands listened.

Frito-Lay Minis are conveniently packaged in an easy-to-transport canister.

Quaker Rice Snacks will instantly elevate parents to ‘cool’ with its shareability, variety and out-there flavours, like Tangy Barbecue, Buffalo Ranch, Sea Salt & Lime. For the sweet tooth, there’s Quaker Rice Thins Salted Caramel and Cocoa Crunch.

Equally igniting tastebuds is Jack Link’s mashup with Doritos for beef jerky and meat sticks that are tickled with Spicy Sweet Chilli or Flamin’ Hot.

Or customise a Frito-Lay Variety Pack - sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy: all in one box - to ensure there’s something for everyone.

To infinity and beyond

The supernova themes driving the snacking universe today, according to Circana:

62%: snacking as pure indulgence is outpacing segments like wellness (think frozen fruit), permissible indulgence (granola bars) and treating (low or no sugar).

54%: snacks are an important part of a healthy eating plan, with mental wellbeing, weight control, gut health and supporting immunity being the main concerns.

66% : snacks provide satiety and excitement in different forms.

83%: want adventure. While the familiar (chocolate, cheese, sour cream & onion) are driving the most sales, bold flavours still rule (think tangy tamarind, three cheese, cinnamon peanut butter & cocoa and sweet Carolina Reaper).

71%: snacking is not planned, it’s just grab-and-go (both in an out the home).

50%: snacking replaces meals because they are on the go. In fact, 23% of young consumers tuck into a chocolate lunch.

The US Summer Snack Index survey was conducted online in May 2023, tapping a sample of 2,000 American adults. The data has been weighted to ensure an accurate national representation of 18+ US consumers.

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