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CHICAGO — The quickening pace of consumers’ lifestyles, the rise of smaller households, and the growing belief that snacks may be part of a healthful diet are just some of the reasons consumers are broadening their definitions of snacks and consuming snacks for more occasions. Eighty-three percent of consumers said they snack on a daily basis in 2016, up from 73 percent in 2014, according to new research from Technomic, a Chicago-based industry tracker.

Kelly Weikel, director of consumer insights at Technomic

“With consumers’ lives getting busier, snacks are serving more needs than in the past,” said Kelly Weikel, director of consumer insights at Technomic. “To gain share, operators and suppliers must adapt their snack lineup to meet consumers’ wide range of need states — from tiding them over to the next meal to replacing meals, to providing nutritious, supplemental treats.”

Using data from more than 1,500 consumers, as well as Technomic's exclusive Digital Resource Library, Knowledge Center and MenuMonitor databases, the research firm also found that 53 percent of consumers in 2016 are snacking between meals, up from 41 percent in 2014.

A slew of new snack products were unveiled at the recent Natural Products Expo West meeting held March 10-13 in Anaheim, California. Many of the snacks have been designed to deliver on the trends identified in the Technomic survey. For example, San Diego-based True Gentlemen’s Jerky offers beef jerky flavored with innovative ingredients such as Merlot, bourbon and blackberries, while Wild Zora in Loveland, Colorado, is offering bars that combine meat and vegetables.

In many instances, younger consumers are driving away-from-home snacking, Technomic said, with 40 percent of younger diners’ snacks consumed away from home versus 25 percent of snacks overall.

Consumers also continue to seek more nutritious snack options. Thirty-three percent of those surveyed said they would purchase snacks more often at restaurants if there were healthier options. Starbucks is among the companies offering more snacks to fill this need, including mini stuffed bagels.

Earlier this year, the NPD Group released findings showing boomers consume ready-to-eat snacks about 1,200 times a year, which amounts to a total of 90.4 billion snack eating occasions. This compares to 1,000 annual snacking occasions per millennial for a total of 83.1 billion snacking occasions.

Factors driving snacking occasions differ among the generational segments. While millennials choose grab-and-go snacks to quell hunger, boomers opt for snack foods in lieu of preparing a big meal. Boomers eat alone more often than other age groups, NPD said.