Have it be morning, afternoon or evening, the concept of mindful snacking is influencing what today’s consumers grab for their multiple mini meals spaced throughout the day. Research shows that taste is the number-one driver of snack selection; however, nutrition and health, or what the snack provides, is increasingly important. This is particularly true to the nearly 91 percent of today’s consumers who snack multiple times per day, according to the Future of Snacking survey from The Hartman Group, Bellevue, Wash.

The survey showed that grazing has become the new normal. In fact, 7 percent of these snacking consumers foregoing traditional meals altogether in favor of all-day snacking.

There are three main drivers for snacking. More than half (56 percent) of the survey respondents indicated they snack for needs relating to nourishment. This is all about hunger abatement, managing hydration, health and diet conditions, as well as snacking for sustained energy. Other motivators include seeking satisfaction and performance optimization.

“Forty-nine percent of respondents said they snack for needs relating to pleasure, which fulfills emotional desires for enjoyment, craving, variety and comfort,” says Laurie Demeritt, CEO at The Hartman Group. “Snacking for pleasure also includes satisfaction of needs for discovery when consumers want to explore food types, tastes, provenances, preparation methods, food purveyors and new products.”

One third (34 percent) of respondents indicated they snack for needs relating to optimization in order to satisfy physical and mental performance demands.

“Optimization snacking might be for quick energy, or to recover and rejuvenate,” Demeritt says. “It is also undertaken to help mental focus and manage stress.”

It’s important to note that snacking drivers change across the day, as do snack forms, flavors and even nutrition profiles. Morning snacks may be more about satiation and nourishment to get through a hectic start. An afternoon snack might be for energy or to satisfy a sweet craving. For the evening snack, maybe it’s about relaxation and pleasure.

To attract shoppers, meat and poultry manufacturers are exploring better-for-you formulations, bold flavors and convenience in order to grab share of the snacking dollar. Products are designed to meet these varied needs throughout the day.