Skip to main content

Snacking: The New American Pastime


JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Consumers’ tendency to replace regular, full meals with on-the-go snacking is on the rise, and that’s good news for convenience store operators, according to a new webcast hosted by Convenience Store News.

The snacks category — which encompasses salty, sweet and alternative snacks — is showing strong growth in the convenience channel and headed for even faster sales growth this year, noted Steven Montgomery, president of b2b Solutions LLC, and Tim Powell, vice president of consulting at Q1 Consulting Services, who both served as presenters for the March 8 webcast entitled “Anytime and On-the-Go: The Rise of Portable Snacking.” 

“The question is: Why is everyone so interested in snacking?” Montgomery posed. “And the answer is snacking [has become] the new American pastime.”

Citing Mintel research, he noted that 94 percent of consumers overall snack at least once a day, while 50 percent snack two to three times a day. In addition, 24 percent of millennials snack four times or more daily.

More than half of consumers (62 percent) are looking to satisfy a craving when they snack, and 63 percent say they value taste over nutritional value in their salty snacks.

In fact, “snacking has increased in every daypart since 2010,” Montgomery said. Broken down by segment, sweet snacks are consumed most after 6 p.m., while savory and better-for-you snacks peak at lunchtime, or around 12 p.m. 

When it comes to what specific kinds of products consumers are snacking on, Nielsen c-store data shows the meat snacks segment leads alternative snacks; muffins and doughnuts are tops in sweet snacks; and potato chips dominate salty snacks. 

So, how can c-store retailers utilize this information to capitalize on the snacking phenomenon?

Montgomery explained retailers should utilize category management, broken down into four easy steps:

  • Step 1: Retailer strategy; the retailer defines rules and principles for the way their store operates.
  • Step 2: Develop category plans. 
  • Step 3: Implement category plans at the store level.
  • Step 4: Review category performance; this provides checks and balances to ensure targets and objectives are being met.


During the second half of the webcast, Powell — who is also a member of CSNews' exclusive How To Crew of foodservice experts — dove into the "sizzling" meat snacks segment and examined why factors like nutrition, innovation, changing tastes and increasing product variety are all contributing to a nationwide sales surge.

The meat snacks market was worth $2.5 billion in 2015, according to Powell. “It’s important to note, 80 percent or $2 billion of [those] sales are accounted for in c-stores,” he said. 

That's because consumers turn to meat snacks to satisfy the need for fast fuel, and c-stores are the go-to destination to fill in the gaps between meals.

However, these same consumers are also turning to salty snacks. The top five reasons consumers partake in salty snacking include: eating it as a treat (60 percent), to satisfy a craving (58 percent), because my children ask (42 percent), to curb hunger between meals (35 percent), and to take the place of a meal (24 percent), as Mintel research shows.

Millennials in particular fall into the bucket of "hurried customers" making purchases as fill-ins between meals. On the list of millennials’ top five foods are meat snacks (at 25 percent), in a tie with prepared foods. 

"What does this tell us? It tells us maybe consumers are purchasing meat snacks as a complement,” Powell explained. “This tells us [meat snacks] are just as important to [consumers] as a prepared-food item.”

It's no coincidence that as sales are surging, innovation in meat snacks is also on the rise. In 2015, beef jerky still accounted for a hefty majority of the jerky category (79 percent); however, poultry jerky, like chicken and turkey, has become the fasting-growing flavor profile.

Game jerky is also seeing a rise in popularity, represented by double-digit growth in 2015. For example, deer and elk jerky was the talk of the show floor at the latest Sweets & Snacks Expo, according to Powell.

More major snack companies are beginning to recognize jerky’s popularity and entering the category. For example, The Hershey Co. acquired KRAVE Pure Foods Inc., manufacturer of KRAVE jerky, for $300 million in January.

“[It is] an interesting evolvement of jerky,” Powell said. “The outlook for jerky is consumers will part with their dollars if the product gives off a differentiation of lifestyle. … With c-stores accounting for $2 billion of meat snack sales, it shows the c-store segment can meet demand for craveable, portable, fast products. … Overall, the outlook is extremely positive.”

The "Anytime and On-the-Go: The Rise of Portable Snacking" webcast was sponsored by Jack Links and Ball Park Flame Grilled Jerky. 

A replay is available by clicking here. 

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds