Consumers in the United States love to snack, with the typical American eating more than 1,000 fresh fruit and sweet and savory snacks throughout a year, according to Chicago-based research firm The NPD Group. The company?s Snacking in America report, which studied consumer snacking trends during a two-year period ended March 2012, found that the No. 1 snack choice in the U.S. is fresh fruit.
?Fruit has been showing some strong gains as a snack food and it?s not just happening at a snack occasion. It?s also been happening alongside main meals,? Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst at The NPD Group, told Convenience Store News.
Joining fresh fruit in the top five of snack foods are chocolate, potato chips, cookies and yogurt. Popcorn, other chips and pretzels also rank high, Seifer said.
NPD?s research revealed that fresh fruit was consumed as a snack in 10 more snack occasions per year than chocolate, which ranks No. 2 on the list of top snack foods, and 25 more occasions than potato chips, the third most popular snack choice.
BEYOND THE SNACK SEGMENT
NPD continues to analyze snack trends as part of its SnackTrack, which monitors the consumption of snack-oriented foods both in-home and out of home. Fruit, along with yogurt, are two snacks showing up as part of main meals, Seifer explained.
?Fruit is viewed as more versatile because it can accompany a main meal, and we have seen it grow at multiple dayparts among consumers,? he said. ?We have seen a 2-percent share increase in people having their snack foods with a main meal. This doesn?t sound big, but with several billion people in the country, convenience store operators should be thinking about it.?
Merchandising fresh fruit at the checkout counter, like Starbucks? coffee shops have done, can help c-store operators capitalize on the growing popularity of produce. Another best practice is marketing fruit near foodservice offerings, according to Seifer.
The NPD Snacking in America report also found that fresh fruit ? which includes apples, pears and bananas ? is popular among all age groups, with those aged 65 and older eating the most, followed by children under 12. While teens aged 13 to 17 eat the least amount of fruit, their consumption will increase as they age.
?Fruit consumption is largest among young kids, so parents are buying for their children,? Seifer said. ?Also, women are more likely to eat fruit than men.?
Furthermore, those who look for healthier snack options like produce eat more often between meals, and fruit is the top go-to snack for these consumers.
?Fruit has a natural health halo to it, so if I want to eat better, I go to more fruits and vegetables,? Seifer noted. ?When people are thinking about health or maintaining a weight need state, it naturally fits into that.?
Besides health, NPD?s research identified five other ?need states? driving consumption of snack-oriented foods: hunger satiety; on-the-go/convenience; routine/habit; cravings; and as a treat/reward when watching television, visiting friends or other social activities. Fresh fruit ranks No. 1 in all of these need states except treat/reward.
?Each operator has to figure out what is best for them, but it seems this trend has been increasing for a couple of years now,? Seifer said.