Nine-in-ten of surveyed consumers report they snack at least once a day. Almost one-fourth snack three-to-four times daily.
Healthwise, it may be wise to approach snacks in moderation. As an investor, the snack food industry may be as alluring as a bag of Ruffles. According to a new Nielsen consumer spending trends survey, snacking is a $374 billion global industry and is growing about 2 percent annually.
Nine-in-ten of surveyed consumers report they snack at least once a day, the Nielsen Global Survey of Snacking finds (I, myself, am snacking on dry roasted peanuts as I write this). Almost one-fourth (21 percent) snack three-to-four times daily. The majority of these are women.
What are Americans’ go-to snacks? When asked what snacks they had consumed over the past month, the responses were:
- Potato chips/Tortilla chips/Crisps (63 percent)
- Chocolate (59 percent)
- Cheese (58 percent)
- Cookies/biscuits (56 percent)
- Fresh fruit (55 percent)
- Bread/sandwich (48 percent)
- Crackers/Crisp breads (48 percent)
But snacks aren’t just for snacking anymore, the report finds. Almost half of consumers worldwide report using snacking as a meal replacement. Fifty-two percent said they sometimes replace breakfast with a snack, while four-in-ten replace lunch (43 percent) or dinner (40 percent) with snacks. Asians are the most likely to replace breakfast with a snack, followed by North Americans (45 percent) and Europeans (44 percent).
There are cultural and geographical differences in the way the world snacks. Globally, chocolate is the most sought-after snack, followed closely by fruit and—can it be?—vegetables. The top snack for Europeans is fruit, followed by chocolate and cheese. In Italy, a majority (51 percent) snack on yogurt, though they express the preference for chocolate.
It all comes down to what people look for in a snack, the report states. For Americans, they means “salty and savory.” Globally, consumers choose “crispy.”
Snacking isn't just a fad or trend — it's the future, James Russo, senior vice president at Nielsen, told USA TODAY. "Big as snacking is today, it's only going to get bigger."
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.