ATLANTA — There’s a reason why it’s called the snacking “universe.” When it comes to core snacking and macro trends, the reach is far and wide, said Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice-president at Information Resources, Inc. (I.R.I.), who gave the keynote address at SNAXPO18, which took place March 12-14 in Atlanta.

“The macro snacks universe is far-reaching and goes across many categories beyond what we consider to be core snacking,” she said.

As consumers constantly redefine where, when and how they snack, Ms. Lyons Wyatt advised snack producers that there’s no “magic bullet” to meet their needs.

“The macro snacks universe is far-reaching and goes across many categories beyond what we consider to be core snacking." — Sally Lyons Wyatt, I.R.I.

Ms. Lyons Wyatt broke snacking down into four basic consumer needs: health and wellness, permissible indulgence, indulgence and treating. While the wellness segment consists of inherently healthy products such as those with specific nutritional benefits, permissible indulgences include decadent snacks that also have an added health benefit or an unhealthy attribute removed, such as cookies with added fiber or an otherwise indulgent snack with reduced sodium. Indulgent snacks are those fully loaded favorites, and treating includes chocolate, candy and gums.

“As we looked at those areas and their sales, what we started to see is that permissible indulgence, indulgence and treating grew, and wellness fell a little short,” she observed.

Some reasons for this dip are declining numbers — both units and dollars — for yogurt and eggs in 2017. However, overall core snacking did see a 1.9% increase.

Potato chips and tortilla chipsWhen examining the top 10 categories, snacking is looking up compared with last year, when only a few of them had experienced growth. This year, 6 out of the top 10 categories drove both dollar and unit sales upward, including potato chips and tortilla chips.

When it comes to the types of snacks consumers are choosing, lifestyle remains the biggest driver, said Ms. Lyons Wyatt. However, lifestyles are complicated as Americans work toward perfecting the art of multitasking and snacking purposefully.

For example, I.R.I. included more milk-based products and beverages in its research with items such as ice cream. Additionally, products with claims such as high-protein and organic are gaining ground with a 40% increase in sales while the rest of this category declined. On the flip side, yogurts with health claims decreased, and the fully loaded versions went up by 8%.

In the cookie category, those with claims such as extra energy saw an increase of 17%.

Ms. Lyons Wyatt noted that a deeper dive into the core snacking market revealed many products are offering something beyond just the snack itself.

“They’re offering things like satiety, protein and even transparency,” she noted. “They’re even offering accompaniment to other types of foods.” 

Granola barsThen again, other products like granola bars that meet specific needs — whether satiety or even indulgence — are showing growth.

“It does take a lot of insight into your business and what type of products you have to cater to the different types of consumers in the U.S.,” Ms. Lyons Wyatt said. “There is no magic bullet.”

Americans are not running away from no or low-fat in some segments, she noted, and in other categories, they’re gravitating toward real sugar and full fat.

 “You’re catering to a very diverse marketplace,” she said, advising snack producers against abandoning any one snacking segment or preference type such as baked chips. There’s a market for all, and the key is identifying the specific habits and lifestyles that best suit a company’s specific product offerings.