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Consumers Reach for Snacks as Meal Ingredient

Frito-Lay and Quaker release findings from annual survey of snackers
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
New Cheetos pretzels
To meet consumers' snack taste, Frito-Lay is launching new products like Cheetos Pretzels.

Snack food makers Frito-Lay and The Quaker Oats Co. both units of Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo., Inc., are out with their annual U.S. Snack Index revealing what and how consumers are noshing.

Based on a recent consumer survey, the brands identified topline trends heading into 2024 centered on current lifestyles. One trend is the ongoing time crunch: According to the Index, the average consumer in the United States has only 52 total minutes a day to prepare, eat and enjoy meals and, in a related behavior, is using snacks in different ways. More than half of consumers use snacks as an ingredient in no-prep dinners once a week and a third are doing so multiple times a week. This is up to 35% over previous years, the company reports. 

[Read more: “Progressive Grocer Declares This Year's Category Captains”]

Another trend is the ongoing craving for protein. The U.S. Snack Index found that consumers cite protein as the most important nutritional attribute and 79% say it’s “more critical than ever” to consume snacks for protein. 

Tied in with the benefits of protein, energy is another attribute that people want out of snack foods. At least once a week, 60% of consumers look for a snack to power them through the day. Breaking it down demographically, 72% of parents leverage snacks for energy and 72% of Millennials think of snacks as an energy source. 

While consumers claim different reasons and benefits for snacks, sheer satisfaction remains a top driver. Frito-Lay and Quaker’s Index affirmed that 74% of consumers don’t want to sacrifice taste when selecting their snacks. Baby Boomers are the most unwilling to compromise on taste (84%), followed by Gen Xers at 75%.   

“While our most recent Snack Index confirms that time is scarce, the data also reinforces that consumers are fiercely passionate about their food preferences,” said Denise Lefebvre, SVP of R&D for PepsiCo Foods.  

The U.S. Snack Index was based on a survey conducted Dec. 6-12, involving a national sample of 2,000 adults. 

Meanwhile, the brands continue to introduce new products aimed at consumers looking to enjoy snacks and the flavors of snacks on a regular basis. Earlier this fall, Frito-Lay debuted Cheetos Pretzels, with one side covered into Cheetos seasoning and the other side a classic pretzel flavor. This month, the brand went cross-category in another way, teaming up with Empirical to launch a limited-time Empirical x Doritos Nacho Cheese Spirit, an adult beverage with the taste and smell of Doritos Nacho Cheese. That product will be available online and in select New York and California markets starting in January. Quaker, for its part, recently added indulgent Chocolate and Cookies & Cream flavors to its line of instant oatmeal.

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