Snacking now accounts for half of all eating occasions.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Snacking, now accounting for half of all eating occasions, is driven by three primary consumer needs: nourishment, optimization and pleasure. Understanding attitudes and approaches to snacking based on these drivers is critical as manufacturers and retailers navigate “the modern era of snackified eating,” said Tamara Barnett, vice president of strategic insights for The Hartman Group.

“Snacking is not just an interesting phenomenon of consumer behavior … it really is a crucial demand space for product and marketing development and strategic portfolio planning,” Barnett said during a Feb. 28 webinar presentation detailing findings of recent research about snacking behaviors.

Of the 91 percent of consumers who report snacking multiple times throughout the day, 8 percent forgo meals altogether in favor of all-day snacking. Time pressures and commitments, as well as the decline of meal planning and cooking skills, have upended traditional daily food rituals.

Ninety-one percent of consumers report snacking multiple times throughout the day.

“How we go about planning, acquiring and consuming food has been disrupted, and the result of that disruption has been in many cases the displacement of meals and a lot of variation in when and how and what gets consumed,” Barnett said.

An elevated focus on food and beverage for nutrition and a growing interest in global flavors have fueled an evolution in snacking behaviors and preferences, Barnett said.

“Snacking was about diversion and fun before,” she said, indicating a more recent shift toward health and wellness, fresh and premium. “The food industry has responded to this desire for fresh and minimally processed food and beverages, and there has been a proliferation of small, premium quality brands that are now competing with those larger legacy brands.”