Consumers Give Themselves Permission to Indulge

Danielle Romano
Managing Editor
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NATIONAL REPORT — Although today’s consumers are growing more health-conscious in their food choices, they are giving themselves permission to enjoy indulgent sweet and savory snacks from time to time, seeking moderation in their diets.

"The role of snack food is changing in different ways in reaction to Americans' desire for balance, portable snack foods, and holistic wellness," said David Portalatin, food industry advisor for New York-based The NPD Group and author of Eating Patterns in America. "It's no longer about depriving yourself of something you enjoy eating. Today, it's about giving yourself permission to eat indulgent snack foods in moderation."

Snacking has always been prevalent, but more recently, there’s been an uptick in frequency with the average person snacking multiple times a day.

Research from market intelligence firm Mintel shows that approximately 50 percent of Americans say the top reason they snack is to treat themselves, and more than one-quarter (28 percent) agree that taste is more important than health when choosing a snack.

Snacking for self-care also is a top motivator, as nearly two in five consumers (37 percent) say they snack to give themselves a break during the day, and 24 percent snack to relieve stress.

Timing Matters

A majority of people say snacks are just as important to their mental (71 percent) and emotional (70 percent) wellbeing as their physical wellbeing, according to Mondelēz International's first-ever State of Snacking report. And 77 percent of consumers agree that there is a time and a place for a healthy snack, and a time and a place for an indulgent one.

Permissible snack indulgence for most consumers tends to happen later in the day, either as a dinner or late-evening snack.

When rewarding themselves, consumers typically look for more indulgent offerings; however, it’s important to note that indulgence could be sweet or savory. We know as the day progresses that indulgence and cravings take stronger hold,” explained Stefanie Nolby, global consumer insights manager for General Mills Convenience and Foodservice. “When we did some research around the rewarding of oneself, we learned that evening time is when that really happened. It was after the bulk of their day that consumers wanted to reward themselves (if a good day) or repair (after a bad day).”

Indulgence has been growing in the morning, though, whereas midday and dinnertime indulgent snacking has been flat or declining. Breakfast tends to be an on-the-go behavior, and snack foods offer the speed and portability needed in the morning.

Overall, snack food eating occasions that are driven by a need for favorites, cravings or the need to reward oneself — which typically involve the more indulgent snack foods — will continue to grow over the next five years, according to NPD’s Future of Snacking report.