Thirty-four percent of snacking occasions reflect some need for optimization.

But while snacking has become a solution for many, it may also serve as a source of tension, she said.

“Consumers may see snacking as an unhealthy emotional crutch or potential trap,” she said.

Twenty-two percent of snacking is aimless, driven by boredom, unrelated to hunger and often followed by guilt and regret. Food and beverage companies should recognize their roles in creating as well as resolving these tensions, Barnett said.

“Consider how your snacking offerings can mitigate some of the concerns that they (consumers) have about imbalance or overconsumption or aimlessness, and continue to create offerings that satisfy those desires for nourishment and optimization and pleasure, but while also being practical.”

Additionally, snacks should be developed to deliver on the increasing need for nourishment, optimization or pleasure on the go.

“Consider not only how package design can simplify on-the-go user experiences but even how the product itself can really enable a mobile lifestyle,” Barnett said.

Finally, she said, the future of snacking will fully embrace freshness. Retailers and manufacturers alike should consider offering a product mix that reflects the desire for fresh but also recognizes the role for iconic and more processed favorites, she said.

“Think about fresh expectations that consumers now have when it comes to snacks,” Barnett said. “Does your product formulation as well as all aspects of… the product signal contemporary notions of freshness and quality, or does it need to be revamped?”