CHICAGO – New research from market intelligence agency, Mintel, finds that three in four (73 percent) American consumers are willing to pay extra for snacks made from higher quality ingredients. Mintel suggests this is a reflection of both the health and wellness movement and migration to snacking versus the traditional three meals a day. The research also revealed evidence that 50 percent of consumers said healthier snacks would provide motivation to buy more from specialty snack shops.

According to Mintel, 64 percent of consumers noted snacking as a necessity to get through the day, including 77 percent of millennials who have the greatest likelihood of visiting specialty snack shops. Sixty percent of Americans visit snack shops to treat themselves, but millennials are more likely to seek healthy snack options. In addition, 38 percent of millennials said they dine at snack shops looking for an extra boost of energy.

Retailers give the snack shop its heaviest competition even though snack shops have a high level of interest. Mintel reports that 41 percent of consumers agree that packaged snacks from supermarkets are better than those from snack shops, including 63 percent of millennials. Brand names play a role in the decision process, as well. Sixty-nine percent of consumers agreed that snacks with branded ingredients represent a higher quality than others.

“Snacking is now a staple of the American diet, and as consumers snack more often, they are looking for healthier ways to indulge with high quality ingredients. By including healthier snacks on menus, shops can expand their appeal beyond millennials, America’s primary snacking generation,” said Diana Kelter, foodservice analyst at Mintel. “Snack shops are in a great position to promote themselves both as a destination for the occasional treat and a quick stop for eating on the go. To further compete with the dominant retail snack market, specialty shops should have pre-packaged options available for consumers, as well as partner with recognized brands to offer branded snack fusions.”

Specialty shops can differentiate themselves by offering customization. The research shows that customizable snacks would motivate 30 percent of parents to visit snack shops more frequently. Also, 34 percent of parents would visit snack shops more often if shops offered more choices for children.

“There is a movement among parents to expand the palates of their children by introducing them to more diverse flavors that don’t typically fit into a kids’ menu. As this trend gains momentum, customizable and build-your-own menu options are rising to the occasion. This gives specialty shops the chance to differentiate themselves by providing unique snacks that appeal to the entire family,” Kelter said.

Snack shops can look to promotional pricing to attract more patrons away from retailers, as well. Mintel states that 35 percent of consumers, including two out of five parents, cite promotional pricing on new menu items would motivate them to use snack shops. Loyalty programs were motivating factor. The research found that snack shops can attract new consumers while rewarding regulars.

“Loyalty programs are important for various reasons. First and foremost, it’s a way to retain satisfied new customers while incentivizing returning customers. As digital loyalty programs advance, it’s also a way for shops to gather consumer purchasing behaviors and preferences. Thanks to the inherent social aspect of snack shops, they have a unique opportunity to focus on the happy hour model to encourage group gatherings,” Kelter concluded.