The snack category is rapidly evolving as consumers continue to incorporate the occasion into their daily routine. New research from Cargill highlights the attributes consumers seek in four popular categories — bars, salty snacks, candy, and sweet baked goods.
The research derived from a survey of 1,200 adult consumers with and without children, and showed more than half of consumers are eating snacks at least once per day.
“This is becoming a substantial eating occasion and we wanted to find out why people are snacking,” says Pam Stauffer, global marketing programs manager for Cargill. “What are their motivations? What are their preferences and what attributes are they looking for?”
From a macro perspective, both men and women participating in the survey said satisfying a craving is the leading reason to snack. Survey respondents also showed a relatively equal desire for sweet and savory snacks, with 41% preferring savory, 38% choosing sweet, and 21% preferring a mix of the two.
In bars, which includes nutrition, protein, and granola applications, one in four said they eat them daily, most often between lunch and dinner.
“Adults are buying protein bars while parents are buying kids products that are natural, have whole grains and fiber,” Stauffer says.
Snack bar attributes consumers are most likely to avoid include products formulated with genetically modified ingredients and high-fructose corn syrup, according to the research.
Ironically, the attribute adults most likely seek in salty snacks is a low sodium formulation followed by a perception of a product being natural. Parents are seeking natural products as well as those made with whole grains most often for their children.
Satiety is the most important benefit adults and parents are seeking in salty snacks followed by heart health, Stauffer says.
With candy, parents adopt a “do as I say and not as I do” approach to snacking. While adults snack on candy approximately 10 times per month, it is the least frequent snack parents offer to their children, coming in just under 8 times per month, Stauffer says.
Adults are most likely to seek products that are formulated with sweeteners perceived as natural. Parents are especially likely to seek product made with natural sweeteners compared to adult survey respondents.
In sweet baked goods the trend toward natural continues with adults and parents seeking products made with natural sweeteners and organic ingredients. Adults are avoiding sweet baked goods formulated with artificial sweeteners and high-fructose corn syrup while parents are avoiding products made with genetically modified organisms and caffeine.
The Cargill research also showed parents are looking for sweet baked goods that deliver a benefit to their children, most notably immune system support, bone and heart health.
“We see development opportunities around snacks with functional benefits,” Stauffer says. “Whether it is turmeric or probiotics, consumers want their snacks to work harder for them.”