Question: What Is a Snack?

The answer depends on packaging, marketing

Spam Snacks

NEW YORK -- As around-the-clock grazing upends the way people eat, companies are reimagining foods that aren't normally seen as snacks to get in on the trend, reported the Associated Press.

That means everything including grilled chicken, cereal, chocolate, peanut butter and even Spam are now being marketed as snacks.

Some are playing up protein. Meat processor Tyson launched Hillshire Snacking this year with packs of cut-up chicken that people can eat with their hands (120 calories per pack). Canned meat maker Hormel is testing Spam Snacks, which are dried chunks of the meat product in re-sealable bags (220 calories per bag).

Kellogg recently introduced Kellogg's To Go pouches, which hold slightly larger pieces of cereal the company says were "specifically created to be eaten by hand" (190 calories per pouch).

Hershey is trying to become more of a snacks player with "snack mixes" that seem like trail mix, except with Reese's peanut butter cups and mini chocolate bars (280 calories per package).

"People are snacking more and more, sometimes instead of meals, sometimes with meals, and sometimes in between meals," Marcel Nahm, who heads North American snacks for Hershey, told the news agency.

He said Hershey's research shows some people snack "10 times a day."

Snacking has been encroaching on meals for years, fueled in part by the belief that several smaller meals a day are better than three big ones. Snacks now account for half of all eating occasions, with breakfast and lunch in particular becoming "snackified," according to the report, citing The Hartman Group, a food industry consultancy.

Kellogg is also marketing regular bowls of cereal as a late-night snack, and says it can do more to promote Pop-Tarts as an anytime snack.

Hormel recently introduced Skippy P.B. Bites, which are candy-like balls of peanut butter marketed as filling treats (a serving has 160 calories and 8 grams of sugar, with each canister containing six servings).

The canister costs around $3.50 and isn't supposed to be a single snack, but Hormel president Jim Snee said "unfortunately it can end up being that."

For food makers, the bigger priority seems to be delivering maximum convenience so people can eat wherever and whenever the spirit moves them, said AP.

Kellogg promises that the pouches for its cereal snacks are "ergonomically designed to allow fingers to easily access the food" and Hershey describes its snack mixes as perfect for "one-handed eating."