Snacks & Candy

The Current State of Snacking

Photograph: IFMA

While dayparts in the food-away-from-home ecosystem are blending and consumers are dismissing the idea of traditional mealtimes, the one constant has been snacking. Snacking is the only 24-hour daypart and younger generations gravitate to it more than previous ones. So, for players across the food-away-from-home value chain, the opportunities for growth are clear.

To help inform its members on this key daypart, IFMA recently conducted a survey to build understanding of the behaviors, habits and preferences for what consumers want to eat when they snack. The online survey of 5,000 consumers and more than 400 foodservice operators gives the food-away-from-home industry a snapshot of today’s consumer and offers some guidance for increasing customer loyalty.

Here’s what retailers should know.

Keep items available throughout the day.

Consumers prefer an all-day menu over one that changes based on time of day, and they show interest in both all-day breakfast and all-day lunch/dinner offerings. Although full-service restaurants are more likely than other sites to offer an all-day menu, consumers believe that midscale, QSR and casual dining are the segments best equipped to offer items outside of traditional dayparts. Convenience stores, however, can play in this sandbox as well.

Sandwiches for breakfast and sweets for lunch are expected, but the blurring of daypart restrictions can ease back-of-house prep schedules and counter set-up. It’s a win-win for operators and retailers as well as consumers.

Innovate with bakery goods at breakfast, handhelds at lunchtime and desserts at dinner or for a snack.

Balance taste and affordability when creating new products. Healthiness is also important for meals, but it comes as a lower priority for snacks, which are driven more by cravings. Convenience is key for all dayparts except dinner—dinner offerings should primarily be filling and comforting.

A treat is a treat at any time of day, but at breakfast and lunch, focus on items that are convenient to carry, hold and consume.

Leverage snacking as an opportunity to fuel growth among younger generations.

Operators bring in the most business at lunch and dinner, but they may be overlooking the potential for snacking, as a quarter of consumers often purchase snacks away from home. Since consumers vary their snack times, this can provide incremental sales throughout the day. The away-from-home snacking opportunity is strongest with younger generations, and sweet and salty are the most desirable snacking flavors.

Be prepared to meet those cravings that pick up in the afternoon and late evening!

Provide single-serve, easy-to-eat snacks that grab attention.

When purchasing snacks, consumers usually make a spontaneous decision to pick up items. The most common snacking sources are c-stores, grocery foodservice and QSRs. They’re looking for convenience and prefer ready-to-eat items.

Micromarkets as a snacking source are getting more and more attention– three-quarters of consumers are interested in purchasing from a micromarket in the future. Cold drinks and ready-to-eat, shelf-stable foods will work best at these locations.

The IFMA research also revealed that snacking is definitely here to stay, but may be leveling off after the growth experienced during and just after the pandemic. That said, away-from-home snacking is still an undeveloped market that deserves attention. Consumers are making unplanned purchases for snacks at off-meal hours but they are looking for items all-day, allowing continued untapped opportunities for the convenience store segment.

IFMA developed the Dayparts and Snacking Report in partnership with its research partner, Datassential and as part of its ongoing Consumer Planning Program (CPP). CPP launched in 2012 to delve deeper into the consumer mindset. Currently, the program works to understand consumer and operator behavior and what manufacturers can do to influence decision-making. To learn more and to engage with the rest of the food-away-from-home ecosystem, visit

This post is sponsored by IFMA


Exclusive Content

Snacks & Candy

What Convenience-Store Consumers Are Craving in Candy, Snacks

Unwrapping the latest treats and trends from the Sweets & Snacks Expo

Snacks & Candy

Convenience-Store Shoppers Are Sweet on Private-Label Candy

How 7-Eleven, Love’s are jumping on confection trends