No longer just a nibble between meals or after school, snack food has taken center stage in the American diet, say Packaged Facts, New York, and the Center for Culinary Development (CCD), San Francisco. In the “Snack Foods Culinary Trend Mapping Report,” the two organizations say snacks have become meal stand-ins as consumers fuel their on-the-go lifestyles. Likewise, snacks now help stave off energy crashes.

Not surprisingly, today’s consumers are looking for more “big bang” for their snacking buck. That means they want rich flavor, quality ingredients and/or pumped-up nutrition.

“Snacks are less and less the hunger-soothing bridge between formal meals,” says CCD’s CEO Kimberly Egan. “They have become valuable gastronomical events in their own right, especially as consumers demand more from their snacks.”