Honing in on Healthy Snacking Habits

Although 86 percent of those who self-identify as “healthy snackers” say they do so to help lose or maintain their weight, the factors often associated with healthy snacking fall rather low on the list when choosing which snacks to buy, according to a recent study conducted by market research firm Lab42.

The study showed that the most decisive factors in choosing a healthy snack -- rated “very important” -- were taste (66 percent), low in sugar (37 percent) and high in protein (35 percent). Surprisingly, these three qualities were all rated above the two qualities most often linked with healthy snacks: low in calories (33 percent) and low in fat (30 percent).

Lab42’s study also explored perceptions of healthy snacks to determine the factors that set them apart. A key insight for both marketers and food brands is that 70 percent said that the word “organic” on the front of the package indicated that it’s healthier than a traditional snack, and 64 percent felt the same about the words “all natural.”

Healthy-snacking consumers expressed a willingness to pay more for snacks they perceived as healthier, with the most popular being “all natural” snacks (87 percent). Eighty-three percent of healthy snackers said they would pay more for organic snacks. A smaller, yet still significant, amount was willing to pay for prepared snacks, like pre-cut carrot sticks and pre-portioned snacks such as 100-calorie packs (61 percent and 55 percent, respectively).

“Healthy snackers’ willingness to pay more for organic and all natural snacks, combined with their perception that these snacks are healthier than other snacks, is a clear opportunity for snack brands to catch consumers’ attention immediately on the front of the package,” said Gauri Sharma, CEO of Lab42. “Given that women are more likely than men to pay more for pre-portioned snacks, it’s important for brands and marketers to better understand who is buying their product and why.”

For healthy snackers, the most popular way to learn about new healthy snack ideas are grocery store displays (64 percent), followed closely by recommendations from family and friends (61 percent). Recommendations and word-of-mouth should not be overlooked by marketers, given that 88 percent said they have recommended their favorite healthy snack to someone.

The study also revealed that healthy snacking habits can change by a snacker’s location and the current season. Seventy-six percent of healthy snackers said they are most consistent about eating healthy snacks at home, and 20 percent are least consistent at work. Men are twice as likely as women to integrate their snacking habits at the office. By season, summer is the most popular time for healthy snacks, which is to be expected given the prevalence of fresh produce, while winter is the most challenging time to maintain healthy snacking habits.

The survey was conducted among 500 American adults who identified themselves as a “healthy” snacker among the following snacker categories: “Favorites,” “Convenience,” “Healthy,” “Cost-efficient” and “Not a snacker.”

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