Prepared Snack Foods

The rise of single-person households and the snacking trend are adding up to new challenges for marketers of prepared foods. Supermarkets tend to be the preferred shopping outlets of choice for prepared snack foods consumed as a meal. “Smaller household sizes and eating alone are among the growing factors with snacking,” says Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. “Food manufacturers and retailers should think about the unique needs of the solo consumer when developing products and packaging, and marketing messages should be crafted to be relevant to them and their snacking behaviors.” 

In 2014 annual consumption per capita of snack foods consumed at meal times among solo diners reached 191 eating occasions compared to 167 in 2011, which stretched across the US population represents a difference of billions of eating occasions. 

Similar to larger households, health and weight management is among the key motivations to eat snack foods at meals for solo diners, particularly better-for-you snack foods, finds NPD. Tying into the rise of single-person homes, the most common over-indexing motivator cited across the better-for-you categories was the fact it came in a single-serve package.

Like a majority of other households, single-person households plan the snack foods that they will be eating at meals ahead of time, typically more than a day before. A significantly smaller amount of eating occasions include a snack food that was planned less than an hour before.

The shifts in consumer purchasing patterns the food and beverage industry is experiencing are broader and more pervasive than most industry executives imagine, according to research conducted by Deloitte Consulting for the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association. The bottom line is the food and beverage industry is in the midst of dramatic change, and that change is consistent across age ranges, regions of the country and income levels.

In other factors for instores to consider, the American palate has become well-traveled. As consumers show greater interest in global cuisines, foreign flavors are flooding the marketplace in such familiar formats as snacks, sauces, meal kits and more. “When we look across our consumer data, we have a very clear-cut group of consumers who are very interested in those even more exotic flavors and getting even more adventurous,” said Jenny Zegler, global trends analyst for Mintel. Hispanic foods rank among the most common choices for consumers dining out or cooking at home, according to Mintel research. “We are seeing a move toward more hybrid or fusion cuisines as well as spicy flavors,” she said.

One of the biggest challenges facing the food and beverage industry is identifying which trends in the marketplace have staying power and which are flash-in-the-pan fads, said Eric Pierce, director of strategy for New Hope Natural Media. “Regardless of whether you’re an entrepreneur, a manufacturer, an investor, a supplier, a retailer or distributor, whatever it is that brought you here today, I imagine the common theme is wanting to know where the next big opportunities are and where you should be placing your bet,” Mr. Pierce said during a presentation at Natural Products Expo East, held Sept. 16-19 in Baltimore. “Further compounding this challenge is the rate at which ideas are scaling and the rate at which products are moving from their early stages of introduction up through specialty markets to conventional and eventually mass markets.

“In the past, that evolution per concept may have taken five, six, eight years or more. Today there are a lot of concepts that are born and in the early stages are moving straight to wholesale or national distribution levels. The rate of innovation is increasing, so the job of identifying which opportunity is for you and taking advantage of it when the timing is right has gotten a lot harder because that scaling doesn’t take six years anymore. That scaling takes one or two years if you’re on the right idea.”