CHICAGO — Snacking has grown during the past few years and is forecasted to increase 14% by 2017, according to market research company The NPD Group.
"A generation ago most Americans believed they should avoid snacking entirely, but today snacking is more acceptable and is clearly the fourth meal of the day," said Harry Balzer, vice-president of The NPD Group. "Twenty-one per cent of all meals are snacks."
While snacking is common for all age groups, NPD found snack-oriented convenience foods are growing most among children ages 6 to 12 but declining among adults 18 to 34 and adults over 55.
In addition, snacking among younger children ages 2 to 5 also is declining. NPD believes by 2017 children under 9 and adults ages 30 to 39 and 50 to 59 will account for the most snacking.
"There is an aging curve that shows between meal eating peaking at a very young age, although children in general remain the heaviest snackers," said Arnie Schwartz, head of the NPD food and beverage business unit. "On the other end of the age spectrum, between meal eating shows growth after the age of around 60. Because this is where the population is heading, we would expect this behavior to just outpace population growth."
Specifically, children represent 30% of snack-oriented convenience food eatings with adult males representing 33% and adult females representing 38% of such snack consumption. The NPD Group said taste, "cravings," desire for breath freshening, having a "sweet" tooth, and finding simple and easy foods drive such snacking. The most popular snack-oriented convenience foods include fresh fruit, gum, chocolate candy, breath mints and potato chips.
Snack-oriented convenience foods are eaten between meals but are often finding their way into meals as accompaniments or replacements. Meal accompaniment is most common at lunch but is declining after dinner. Snack foods also replace more breakfast meals than other occasions.
The most popular between meal snack items include fruit, cookies, candy and gum, ice cream, and chips.
Most snacks are consumed in the evening at home, but evening snacking is declining while morning snacking has shown the strongest growth. In addition, snack foods replace more breakfast meals than other meals and snacking in the afternoon continues to remain stable.