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Snacks & Candy

Tracking the Booming Snack Trend

Which subcategories are outpacing the rest?

NEW YORK -- Nearly all U.S. households (98%) purchased individually packaged snacks at least once in 2017, and the annual household spending on these items grew 1.1% compared to last year, according to a recent study by New York-based Nielsen.

Per the report, today’s average on-the-go household spends $133 annually on individual snack items, buying them almost twice monthly (22.3 times per year). Families of five or more purchase the highest percentage of individually packaged snacks among all household groups.

Every snacking category grew in sales from 2013 to 2016. Handheld bars, including meal-replacement, weight-management and cereal bars, led the way with a $633 million increase, followed by jerky ($547 million) and cookies and crackers ($469 million). Dairy snacks alone account for almost one-fourth (22%) of individual snacking dollars despite falling four percentage points from 2016. Meanwhile, salty snacks (up 6%), cookies and crackers (up 6%), jerky (up 5%) and produce (up 5%) all saw sales increases compared to last year.

Healthy products are thriving in snack sales, especially those that feature “natural” or “clean” ingredients. With an 18.2% rise in dollar sales since 2012, non-GMO snacks are the top seller in the healthy category, followed by products free from artificial colors and flavors (up 16.2%) and those with reduced sugar claims (up 11.3%).

Despite the increase in healthy-snack sales, however, patrons are actually buying fewer healthy options at c-stores due to the lack of nutritious options available compared to conventional stores, the study said. Nonetheless, with 44.2% of consumers willing to pay premum prices at c-stores, and 33% planning to purchase healthy items at these locations in the future, healthier snacking options may still be on the rise, the report said.

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