Capitalizing on snacks appeal

by Monica Watrous
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Small bites and snack-size portions are rising on restaurant menus.


ROCKVILLE, MD. — Big growth comes from small packages, according to new research from Packaged Facts, which reports snackable items are rising on restaurant menus and retail shelves.

Two-thirds of consumers snack between meals, up from 62% in 2004, and 39% of consumers eat several small meals throughout the day, up from a third of respondents a decade ago. Snacks appeal to today’s on-the-go consumer, who is less likely to plan days around traditional mealtimes. Additionally, snacks are increasingly viewed as a healthier and more affordable alternative to a full meal. Taco Bell’s Dollar Cravings Menu, introduced this year, features such handheld items as mini quesadillas and snack-size burritos that offer value and convenience.

For restaurant operators, snacks generate traffic throughout the day and may be purchased as add-ons to a regular meal. Sliders have branched out beyond burgers to chicken, turkey, pork and other options.

Bite-size items offer portion control and variety. LongHorn Steakhouse, for example, this year introduced its Bold Bites menu of shareable appetizers that include spicy crispy chicken bites, cheese-stuffed jalapeños and sweet corn fritters.

“We expect to see continued innovation of mini or bite-sized items and small plates as these items allow operators to focus on snacks as the fourth meal as well as a sharable dining experience,” said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.

Sampler platters, such as T.G.I. Friday’s Taste & Share platform, promote customization and sharing while showcasing a restaurant’s signature offerings. Operators also are marketing regular items as shareable to leverage an emerging style of dining popular with millennials.

Packaged food companies also are innovating with smaller and more convenient formats, such as single-serve tubs, cups and bags that allow consumers to control portion and calories. Hormel Foods offers several such products, including Skippy Singles peanut butter packs and Wholly Guacamole single-serve cups. Brands such as Emerald Nuts with its breakfast trail mixes are positioning snack products as healthy, on-the-go options.

Meanwhile, beverage makers, including Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are looking to sleek mini cans to tap into the snacking occasion and reengage lapsed users.
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