Over a third of consumers globally say they snack regularly, with the figure rising to just over 40% for young people aged 18-34, as the practice of modular eating becomes more accepted as an alternative to eating three main meals a day, according to a study conducted by Canadean, Boston.

The company’s latest report, “Top Trends in Snacks, Confectionery, and Desserts; Exploring consumer and innovation trends in key categories,” finds that consumers snack for a variety of reasons such as 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.

“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,” says Katrina Diamonon, principal consumer insight. “Not only are they more frequent snackers, but [also] 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,” adds Diamonon. “Improved sourcing transparency and ethical production of such offerings is also enhancing premium credentials.”