Nielsen: Individual Snacking Categories on the Rise in the US

As the individual snacking category reaches USD33bn in the U.S., retailers and manufacturers are offering single-serve grab-and-go products to fit their needs, according to Nielsen.

Annual household spending on individually-packaged snacks has increased 1.1% over the previous year with almost every household (98%) in the US purchasing these items at least once for quick and convenient consumption.

Busy households today spend on average USD133 annually on individual snack items, purchasing them almost twice monthly (22.3 times per year) across categories. Large families—specifically with five or more members—index the highest out of all household groups, purchasing 16% more individually packaged snacks than the average family.

From 2013-2016, all individual snacking categories have seen sales increases. Individual bars (all health, meal replacement, performance, weight management, and cereal/granola bars) have seen the strongest absolute dollar growth with an increase of USD633m, while individual cookies/crackers rounding out the top three with sales gains of USD469m in just three years. Other categories including salty snacks (+6%), cookies/crackers (+6%), jerky (+5%) and produce (+5%) are leading growth across the individual snacking market.

While growth is happening in a variety of traditional and healthy snack categories, products that call attention to specific healthful claims are driving the strongest uptick in sales. For example, snacking products that are non-GMO lead the way with an 18.2% surge in dollar sales for each of the past five years, followed by snacking products that are free from artificial colors/flavors (16.2%) and no/reduced sugar claims (+11.3%). Comparatively, the average snack product has seen an increase of only 1.2%. Even in traditionally indulgent snacking categories like salty snacks, health claims are driving sales.

Yet, as consumers strive to make healthier life choices, convenience is still important. When shoppers make quick trips to the convenience store, they are purchasing less healthy options, possibly because the healthy assortment they are accustomed to at conventional stores are not available. However, with 44.2% of consumers willing to pay premium prices at convenience stores, there is an opportunity to grow healthier snacking options in this channel. Additionally, 33% of convenience store shoppers plan to purchase fresh food at convenience stores in the future, opening the opportunity for innovation to reach the consumer on this trip type.

Individual snacking definition includes items such as confection (single serve candy), salty snacks (salty snacks under 3.5oz, snack mixes under 5oz), bars (all health, meal replacement, performance, weight management, cereal/granola bars), cookies/crackers (under 4oz), sweet Snacks (under 2 servings), etc.

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