On-the-Go Produce Snacks Become Big Business

NEW YORK — Produce is beginning to make a name for itself when it comes to snacking.

While not as big as the salty snack category, the "snackable" fruit and vegetable category saw sales reach $16.3 billion in the year ended May 27, according to The Nielsen Co.

However, acknowledging that not every produce sale is meant to serve as a snack, Nielsen noted that the "on-the-go" snacking sub-category is a $1.1-billion area, and it posted a compound annual growth rate of more than 10 percent every year between 2012 and 2016.

Tapping into the growth, manufacturers and retailers added 900 new snacking items to grocery shelves over that period, 600 of which were individual servings of fresh cut fruit — with and without additional items, according to the New York-based market research firm.

Fruit Snack Sales

On a national level, 32 percent of U.S. homes buy on-the-go produce snacks an average of 3.1 times per year. While families are clear stand-out buyers, younger generations and multicultural households also buy more on-the-go produce snacks than the average U.S. household, Nielsen noted.

Looking at share of on-the-go produce snacking dollars, fresh fruit is the winner with 44 percent of on-the-go produce snacking is attributed to fruit options. According to the numbers, sales of on-the-go fruit snacks are also up 17 percent from last May.

Comparatively, 17 percent of on-the-go snacking dollars come from fresh vegetables. The disparity is in large part attributed to four times more snacking fruit items on the shelves than their vegetable counterparts, the firm noted.

Nielsen offered several key tips for retailers and manufacturers:

  • Have options; variety is key. Healthful snacking transcends all retail outlets and can serve as a key point of differentiation within the produce department.
  • Stay tuned in to potential mismatches between snacking and produce consumption trends.
  • Private-label and unbranded options represent a possible opportunity to produce options in house to build market share and sales.
  • There is room for improvement in branded snacking sales.
  • Understanding who, how, where and why shoppers choose different items for snacking can help uncover new opportunities for distribution, innovation and marketing to ensure success on an already crowded shelf.