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Consumers' Snacking Preferences Go Beyond Flavor

The top values driving purchasing decisions include companies' attention to sustainability practices, community impact around food access, and treatment of employees.
woman browsing snacks

PLANO, Texas — When it comes to the snacks they eat, consumers' preferences are shifting beyond flavor as they place a greater priority on the companies they choose to purchase from.

According to the latest U.S. Trend Index from Frito-Lay, 90 percent of consumers who snack daily care deeply about the companies whose snacks they're eating. Snack companies' attention to sustainability practices (77 percent), community impact around food access (78 percent), and treatment of employees (87 percent) are among the top values driving purchasing decisions.

This is particularly true for younger generations. More than half of consumers ages 18 to 34 noted they consider a brand's ethics and sustainability practices when purchasing.

However, while younger consumers are more likely than consumers older than 35 to be interested in sustainable production and packaging, ingredient integrity and flavor exploration has more influence over food and snack choice for both demographics. In fact, if they had to choose one snack element, 42 percent of consumers within each demographic stated they would choose flavor combinations such as sweet and spicy, or tangy and salty over familiar, regional flavors (21 percent), texture (21 percent), and international flavors (15 percent).

Thirty-five percent of consumers say that innovative flavors are most likely to influence what they select, more than recommendations (28 percent), brand recognition (21 percent), packaging (9 percent), or sustainability efforts (7 percent). They also aren't afraid to try new things: 40 percent are most excited to find a snack with a flavor they love but have never had in a snack product before.

"During the summer, people explore new activities, new places and enjoy new flavors of snacks as they attend more outdoor gatherings," said Mike Del Pozzo, chief customer officer, Frito-Lay North America. "While flavor continues to drive consumers' food-purchasing behaviors, we know how a company behaves matters and that's why I'm proud of Frito-Lay's commitment to sustainability and community impact."

Additional insights include:

What's on the inside counts

  • Roughly two-thirds of consumers are more likely to purchase products that invest in local communities.
  • Sixty-six percent of consumers say purchasing sustainable food products is important.
  • Seventy-four percent of adults are more interested in naturally sourced ingredients than production-related factors like recycled packaging, compostable packaging, or products made with recycled water.

Shifts in long-term eating habits

  • While nearly everyone surveyed enjoys the social aspect of snacking (81 percent), Generation Z and millennials are more likely to prefer to eat in solitude (45 percent).
  • Millennials (19 percent), Gen Zers (20 percent) and parents (20 percent) are slightly more likely than average to snack on-the-go.

Summer snacking

  • More than two in five parents will buy or create individually packaged snacks in advance before traveling this summer.
  • Parents are more likely than non-parents to replace meals with snacks several times per week or more (52 percent).
  • Sixty percent of consumers are most excited to snack at outdoor gatherings with family and friends now that pandemic restrictions have lifted.

The recipe for a perfect snack

  • Americans prioritize a salty/sweet snack combination (42 percent) over texture, international or local flavors.
  • Almost half of all respondents (44 percent) said trying new snack flavors led them to try more foods with those same flavors, while more than half (58 percent) of 18- to 34-year-old consumers have eaten more foods featuring a flavor that they had initially experienced in a snack.
  • Given the choice, consumers are selecting innovative flavor combinations most often (59 percent), including sweet and salty, spicy and sweet and tangy and salty.

The U.S. Trend Index poll was conducted online and surveyed more than 2,000 consumers ages 18 to 34.

Plano-based Frito-Lay North America is the $19 billion convenient foods division of Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo Inc.

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