DALLAS – While the snack industry remains strong and vibrant, manufacturers have plenty of opportunity to grow if they respond with products, packaging, advertising and in-store merchandising that meet the needs of today’s dynamic on-the-go consumer, said Sally Lyons Wyatt, IRI executive and general manager, client insights, during SNAXPO 2014, held in Dallas earlier this month.

Information Resources Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm, and the Snack Food Association will feature Wyatt’s presentation in a webinar at 11 am CDT on March 20.

With core snack sales last year outpacing overall consumer packaged goods sales by 2.9 percent to 1.6 percent, Wyatt stressed the impact of today’s busy consumer who is eating more frequent, smaller meals throughout the day.

To increase consumption, Wyatt advised snack manufacturers to take advantage of multiple eating occasions throughout the day and tailor products to the types of occasions they wish to target — from early morning to late at night, keeping in mind the snacking habits of age groups and other demographics.

“Try really hard not to treat all consumers the same,” she said. “If you are trying to innovate and attract consumers who go to quick-serve restaurants, for example, go to the demographic groups who go there.”

Health-conscious consumers continue to pay close attention to claims on packages, with healthier categories such as nutritional snacks, trail mixes and carob/yogurt-coated snacks showing exceptional growth. Overall, 62 percent of better-for-you snack categories grew in volume sales, Wyatt said.

However, the industry analyst warned snack producers to not to avoid indulgent snacks, noting that 68 percent of consumers look for snacks that are fun to eat. Some of this segment’s leaders include chocolate-covered salty snacks, up 15.2 percent, dried meat snacks, up 4.6 percent, and frozen handheld non-breakfast entrées, which rose 3.4 percent, according to IRI data.

Wyatt said companies should leverage social media as well as other forms of advertising, but she stressed the importance of in-store merchandising.

“Tout it in-store,” she said. “If it’s about indulgent, that’s OK, but getting the message in-store is absolutely essential.”

For more information on the upcoming webinar, go to www.iriworldwide.com/NewsEvents.