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Younger Consumers View Snacking as Avenue for Discovery of New Flavor Experiences

Gen Z and millennials agree snacking allows them to try global flavors.
The Hartman Group's four pillars of snacking drivers

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Great taste represents a key baseline requirement in a broad range of snack selection criteria for retailers looking to boost their snack sales.

New research from The Hartman Group indicates that as younger populations with more exposure to new global flavors and a desire to seek them out, Generation Z and millennials are more likely to see snacking as an avenue for discovery of new taste experiences.

According to the firm's Snacking: Emerging, Evolving and Disrupted report, 56 percent of Gen Z and 56 percent of millennials agree that snacking allows them to try new global flavors vs. 42 percent of Gen X and 20 percent of baby boomers.

The Hartman Group's Modern Snacking Framework helps explain how consumers approach and think about snacking today. It is presented in four pillars, or snacking drivers, and captures how snacking motivations and needs shift according to the occasion, context and individual.

The four pillars are:

  1. Nourishment: Snacking that meets needs for daily sustenance, long-term wellness and health management
  2. Optimization: Snacking that helps one fulfill physical and mental performance demands
  3. Pleasure: Snacking that fulfills emotional desires for enjoyment, reward and discovery
  4. Distraction: Snacking that arises from the need to distract, whether due to stress, boredom or other reasons

The report found that more than half of all snacking (51 percent) reflects some need for pleasure — a driver that intentionally addresses consumer needs for enjoyment, sensory engagement, taste exploration, and permissible indulgence.

A top motivation in this pillar is discovery and play. With a growing number of food types, provenances, preparation methods, and food purveyors, discovery has never been greater or more accessible. Cultural values that embrace diversity and new experiences have further heightened the desire for food exploration. Snacking occasions involving smaller quantities, lower price points, and fewer nutritional, social, or cultural expectations provide a way to discover and play with food through lower-risk occasions, according to The Hartman Group.

Many pleasure-oriented snacking occasions tend to showcase sweeter flavors, and though some seek out bold or unusual flavors, familiar tastes and formats remain important. Key attributes of the pleasure snacking driver include:

  • Good taste
  • Distinctive flavor/texture/aroma
  • Iconicity & nostalgia
  • Surprise & delight
  • Product design & aesthetics
  • Global flavors
  • Interactive characteristics
  • Convenience

More information on Snacking: Emerging, Evolving and Disrupted is available here.

Since 1989, Bellevue-based The Hartman Group Inc.'s group of anthropologists, social scientists and business analysts have been immersed in the study of American food and beverage culture, using ethnographic observation, quantitative tracking surveys and deep study of trends. 

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