The next generation are grazing and snacking far more frequently than generations before it.

More than half of Gen Z (some of whom are teenagers) and Millennials (none of whom are teens, and some of whom are pushing 40) eat three meals per day. But 84% of Gen Z and 77% of Millennials are snacking on any given weekday. It appears that some Gen Z and Millennial consumers are replacing at least one “conventional” meal per day with snacking.

Food manufacturers ignore snacks at their own peril. Jesse Newman of the Wall Street Journal says of snack brands, “These companies have seen the biggest increase in their sales compared to some of the more established, meal focused-companies, some of which have snacks as part of their portfolio.” From a food manufacturer perspective, snacks could be the most important meal of the day.

So how can food manufacturers capitalize on this trend? Emphasize good ingredients and focus on price conscious consumers.

Emphasize Good Ingredients

In a number of studies, including Mondelez’s 2022 State of Snacking report, a majority of consumers shared that they read the nutrition labels when considering snacks. What may surprise you, however, is that they are not necessarily looking at the caloric content or the nutrition macros. Instead, they are likely looking for the following:

  • Health. Gen Z and Millennials want tasty snacks, of course, but they want them to be healthy as well. While potato chips still come out on top, Gen Z list fruits and vegetables as their second favorite snack. Dairy products come in third. Consumers may not care about calories, but nutritious ingredients matter.
  • Plant-Based Options. As we have covered previously at FoodService IP, plant-based foods have been on the rise for the past few years. The same is true for snacks. Clear labeling that highlights a snack’s plant-based ingredients will resonate with younger consumers.
  • Environmental & Social Impact. While taste, price, and health are the most important qualities Gen Z and Millennial consumers consider when choosing a snack, 21.9% say that sharing the snack brand’s values is important to them. Having a positive social and environmental impact (i.e., not greenwashing) will attract certain shoppers who align with those ethics.

Focus on Price Conscious Consumers

Snacks are affordable luxuries. With food prices on the rise and consumers swapping out meals in favor of snacks, price matters. When asked, 47.6% of Gen Z and 43.2% Millennial consumers said that price was the greatest factor when determining whether or not to try a new snack. Manufacturers seeking to attract new customers need to target these price conscious shoppers to expand their market share. Sales or discounted limited time offers can be a good way to encourage consumers to break out of their current snacking habits and try something new. Once you’ve earned new customers, bulk options could keep price conscious fans coming back for more.

The Bottom Line

Consumption patterns are always changing. A key new trend is the shift from three meals a day to one or two meals plus a few snacks. By emphasizing good ingredients and focusing on price conscious consumers, food manufacturers can advance their bottom line while meeting consumers’ changing needs and preferences.