Nielsen: Expanding Variety & Healthy Options Present Opportunities Across All 'Individual Snacking' Categories

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Nielsen: Expanding Variety & Healthy Options Present Opportunities Across All 'Individual Snacking' Categories

individual fruit cups

NEW YORK — With increasingly on-the-go lifestyles, Americans are reaching for snacks to satisfy their hunger cravings between meals, and some are using them to replace meals entirely.

According to market researcher Nielsen, the individual snacking category reached $33 billion this year, and from 2013 to 2016, all individual snacking subcategories saw sales increases.

Individual bars (including health, meal replacement, performance, weight management, and cereal/granola bars) have seen the strongest dollar growth at an increase of $633 million, followed by jerky at an increase of $547 million. Individual cookies/crackers round out the top three with a gain of $469 million.

Dairy snacks alone account for almost a quarter (22 percent) of individual snacking category dollars. However, other subcategories, including salty snacks (up 6 percent), cookies/crackers (up 6 percent), jerky (up 5 percent) and produce (up 5 percent), are also leading growth in the individual snacking market, Nielsen reported.

While growth is occurring across both traditional and healthy snack subcategories, products that call attention to specific healthful claims are driving the strongest uptick in sales. For example, snacking products that are non-GMO lead the way with an 18.2-percent surge in dollar sales for each of the past five years. In the No. 2 and No. 3 spots are snacking products free of artificial colors/flavors (up 16.2 percent) and no/reduced sugar claims (up 11.3 percent).

Comparatively, the average snack product has seen a dollar sales increase of only 1.2 percent.

Nielsen also found that annual household spending on individually packaged snacks has increased 1.1 percent over the previous year, with almost every household in the U.S. (98 percent) purchasing these items at least once for quick and convenient consumption.

Households today spend an average of $133 annually on individual snack items, purchasing them almost twice monthly (22.3 times per year) across subcategories. Large families — specifically those with five or more members — index the highest out of all household groups, purchasing 16 percent more individually packaged snacks than the average family.

When it comes to consumers striving to make healthier lifestyle choices, convenience is still king. When shoppers make quick trips to the convenience store, they are purchasing less healthy options, possibly because the healthy assortment they are accustomed to at conventional stores is not available, according to Nielsen. However, with 44.2 percent of consumers willing to pay premium prices at convenience stores, there is an opportunity to grow healthier snacking options in this channel, the researcher noted.

Additionally, 33 percent of convenience store shoppers plan to purchase fresh food at convenience stores in the future, opening up the opportunity for innovation to reach the consumer on this trip type, Nielsen added.

Nielsen derived these insights from its The Sweet Success of Snacking Across the Store report, October 2017, and its Convenience Store Choice Drivers 2017 report, which is available for download here.

Nielsen defines individual snacking as:

  • Jerky
  • Dairy (individually wrapped cheese, yogurt cups, ice cream cones and cups)
  • Confection (single-serve candy)
  • Salty snacks (salty snacks under 3.5 ounces, snack mixes under 5 ounces)
  • Fresh-cut fruits and vegetables (with or without a UPC) under 10 ounces; single-serve refrigerated fruit smoothies and fruit jars/cups
  • Bars (all health, meal replacement, performance, weight management, cereal/granola bars)
  • Cookies/crackers (under 4 ounces)
  • Nuts/seeds (under 5 ounces)
  • Sweet snacks (under two servings)
  • All other (fruit snacks, snack combos with meat or cheese, snack combos with dip)
share of dollars across all snacking categories
salty snack category growth by health claims
share of individual snacking dollars in convenience channel