Nielsen Research Uncovers Three Types of Snackers

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — The rise of snacking is not only taking place in the United States. Consumers around the globe spent $374 billion on snack foods annually between 2013 and 2014, a year-over-year increase of 2 percent, according to a new global snacking report from Nielsen.

Europe ($167 billion) and North America ($124 billion) account for the majority of global snack sales. However, yearly snack sales are actually growing faster in the still-developing regions of Asia-Pacific ($46 billion) and Latin America ($30 billion), which increased 4 percent and 9 percent, respectively, while Middle East/Africa snack sales ($7 billion) rose 5 percent over the same timeframe.

"The competitive landscape in the snacking industry is fierce," said Susan Dunn, executive vice president, global professional services at Schaumburg-based Nielsen. "Demand is driven primarily by taste and health considerations, and consumers are not willing to compromise on either."

The Nielsen Global Survey of Snacking polled 30,000-plus consumers across 60 countries to find out which snacks are most popular around the world, and which health, taste and texture attributes are most important when selecting a snack.

"Understanding the 'why before the buy' provides the foresight necessary to deliver the right product to the right consumer at the right time," Dunn added.

Global snackers tend to fall into three types: planner, spontaneous or purposeful.


This group accounts for the largest percentage of global respondents. They eat snacks at home (79 percent), with family and friends (68 percent) and they have a few snacks they keep in rotation (68 percent). These consumers tend to buy snacks in the store aisle (63 percent) and know exactly what they want when they get to the store (56 percent).

Marketers need to reach this type of snacker before he or she gets to the store through websites, fliers, marketing and social media. They're less adventurous than other types of snackers, so marketing efforts should educate them about the benefits of a snack, according to James Russo, senior vice president, global consumer insights at Nielsen.


The second largest group is spontaneous. These global respondents like to try new snacks (65 percent), buy a variety of snacks (63 percent) and don’t plan their snack purchases (58 percent). These consumers often eat snacks as soon as they buy them (48 percent) and tend to buy snacks at the checkout counter (31 percent). These are the snackers most likely to try out a new product.

This group of snackers is the most adventurous and makes their purchase decisions in the store. Marketers can catch their eye with attractive in-store signage and sampling programs. These snackers are the first to try out a new product and respond well to messaging about the "innovative" nature of a snack. They also make a large percentage of their purchases at checkout from the impulse-buy section, so make sure the right products are placed there for easy access.


Purposeful snackers know what they want in a snack and are highly selective. These global respondents prefer snacks with ingredients that are sourced sustainably (56 percent) and will pay extra for Fair Trade snacks (47 percent). They also prefer to buy name-brand snacks (51 percent), and many will only buy snacks that are on sale (37 percent).

To reach this group of conscientious snackers, marketers need to tailor their messaging to emphasize the product attributes of sustainability, Fair Trade and premium, as these terms resonate the most with these consumers. Also, it's important to reach them through out-of-store and in-store promotional activities, such as coupons, since they're the most likely to be deal-sensitive, said Russo.

Click here to download the full Nielsen Global Survey of Snacking.

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