Sure, many of us may aim for three square meals a day but a sizable swath of consumers incorporate snacks into their diets on a daily basis – and nearly a third (29%) say the last snacks they ate replaced a meal.
And even if it’s not happening every day, snacks are still very important: 74% of consumers say they have a snack in place of a traditional meal at least once per week.
If by “snack” you immediately picture an energy bar, a piece of fruit, or a handful of nuts, widen the lens. Two-thirds of consumers and operators say that anything can be a snack from a hot dog or hummus to French fries or eggs. Although consumers do also report eating healthier snack items like fruit and nuts and less of sweet snacks like cookies and candy.
Consumers are snacking an average of 2.3 times per day, the highest being millennials or those consumers with kids. Boomers are the least likely to snack but still indulge an average of 1.8 times per day.
For foodservice professionals, this means there’s an opportunity to explore sales for existing foods in new forms, or reinvigorate items that may be wasted. Take leftover sausages and layer cake, for example (just maybe not together, please?): Those sausages can be wrapped in dough and get a new life as snackable pigs in a blanket, and the cake can get mixed and formed into cake pops.
And while it can be daunting to add new menu items at a time when the economy is uncertain and consumer desires tend to shift rapidly, here’s more good news for restaurant operators: new snacks tend to beat sales expectations.
New snacks were six times more likely to beat sales expectations than miss them in an examination of restaurant, retail and on-site operators’ recently added snacks. In all, 96% of operators who added new snacks said these items either beat or met their sales expectations. And in the snacking world, it seems like a rising tide lifts all boats: Every snacking initiative reported by operators was said to increase snacking sales instead of decreasing them.
Snacks can also be a great way to safely experiment with new trends, because consumers are willing to go bold on items like snacks and appetizers. They can get introduced or refreshed quickly, with over half of snack-serving operators saying it only takes a month or less to introduce a new snack.
And snack-eating consumers say they’d try a new snack if they were given a free sample that was innovative in terms of flavor or variety, or in some other scenario that made trying a new snack intriguing. Consumers, eager for newness, also say that new snacks will get them even more excited for a main course, alongside which more than half are sold.
Samantha Des Jardins is the Content Marketing Manager at Datassential.
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