The Rise of ‘Modular Eating’

Many millennials shunning three-meals-a-day habit in favor of snacking

woman snacking

LONDON -- More than a third of consumers globally say they snack regularly, with the figure rising to just more than 40% for young people aged 18 to 34, as the practice of “modular eating” becomes more accepted as an alternative to eating three main meals a day, according to consumer insight firm Canadean.

The company’s latest report, "Top Trends in Snacks, Confectionery and Desserts; Exploring Consumer and Innovation Trends in Key Categories," finds that consumers in the United States and globally snack for a variety of reasons, including the functional need for an energy or nutritional boost, the psychological need to de-stress or indulge and needs dictated by occasion, such as watching a movie, attending a sporting event or socializing with friends.

As more consumers turn to snacks to fulfill a wide range of needs and occasions every day, the potential opportunities for snacking brands are “enormous” across the health-indulgence and sweet-savory spectrums, the firm said.

“While it is important for brands to acknowledge and address the snacking needs of all consumers, it is particularly crucial to understand the motivations of younger consumers,” said Katrina Diamonon, principal for consumer insight at London-based Canadean. “Not only are they more frequent snackers, but their purchase behaviors and preferences will strongly influence other current consumers and also subsequent generations as they pass on these traits to their children.”

Canadean finds that a range of rational and emotional needs beside hunger can be addressed through snacking, and these reasons differ according to age. As millennials tend to prioritize meat in their diets more highly than their older counterparts due to its perceived health benefits, manufacturers should capitalize on the meat-snack segment and explore new opportunities.

“Manufacturers are increasingly experimenting with a range of proteins, formats and gourmet flavors to elevate consumption from convenience-store snacks to an exciting taste experience and even credible meal replacement,” Diamonon said. “Improved sourcing transparency and ethical production of such offerings is also enhancing premium credentials.”