Look Who’s Snacking

It’s hard to escape all the data about demographics these days, especially when it comes to Millennials and Hispanics.

These two consumer groups pack a tremendous amount of buying power. And that means retailers and CPG companies alike must understand how these prospective customers make decisions on the path to purchase for a variety of products—including snacks.

While you might know that snacking, in general, is on the rise (94 percent of adults snack at least once a day, and 33 percent of all consumers say they are snacking on healthier foods this year compared to last year, according to the Snacking Motivations and Attitudes US 2015 report from Mintel), recognizing the snacking habits of each demographic group can help you build a snack portfolio best suited to your customer base.

Meet the Millennials

Young people like to snack—a lot!

That is one take-away from the Snacking Motivations report, which shows that iGeneration/Millennials are most likely to snack frequently.

“Millennials are significantly more likely to snack compared to older consumers, with 24 percent of Millennials most likely to snack frequently, four or more times per day, and 23 percent snacking more this year compared to last year,” the report shows.

Just what do Millennials look for when shopping for snacks? According to Mintel:

  • iGeneration/Millennials are drawn to organic snacks and products with added nutrition, (think protein, vitamins and fiber), and a variety of flavors. "Millennials are also more likely than older generations to indicate that snacks with added nutrition and flavor variety are important to them,” says Amanda Topper, food analyst at Mintel. "As a result they may be drawn to products with high fiber, energizing claims or protein content to stay satiated, as well as to bold flavors to help add variety to their frequent snacking occasions and eliminate boredom.”


  • Affordability is important. According to Mintel, this creates an opportunity for health-focused or organic brands to reach Millennials with low-cost snacking options.


  • Word of mouth and a store’s location influence purchases. iGeneration/Millennials are most likely to try a snack that has been recommended to them (68 percent) and most likely to go out of their way to buy snacks from a specific store (43 percent), the report reveals.

Hone in on Hispanics’ Preferences

Acculturation is an important factor driving snack buying decisions in Hispanic households, according to Mintel’s "Hispanic Consumers' Snacking Preferences - US - March 2015."

“Overall, Hispanics in general trail non-Hispanics in the consumption of most snack categories. However, there are significant differences in consumption among Hispanics depending on their level of acculturation,” explains Juan Ruiz, senior multicultural analyst at Mintel. “Typically, less acculturated Hispanics tend to limit their consumption to categories, types, and brands of snacks that they and their families like. As Hispanics become more acculturated, they tend to get exposure to a greater variety of types and brands of snacks, expanding their list of acceptable snacks to consume depending on the occasion.”

What’s important for retailers and CPG companies to know about these consumption trends? Mintel says to focus on these facts:

  • Hispanics look for variety. Sixty-five percent of Hispanics purchase at least seven types of snacks for their own consumption in a typical month, while 59 percent buy nine or more different types of snacks for household consumption in a typical month.


  • Acculturation influences salty vs. sweet preferences. To sate a sweet tooth, Hispanics prefer ice creams and ready-to-eat cookies. When they want salty snacks, potato chips, corn tortilla or cheese chips/snacks, along with snack/graham crackers rule the day.

However, while Hispanics’ consumption of the most popular snacks (ice cream, potato chips and ready-to-eat cookies) is similar to non-Hispanics’ consumption, they are significantly less likely than non-Hispanics to eat snack crackers, chocolate and candy, nuts, frozen novelty treats, dips, pretzels, meat snacks and meat jerky.

“These differences are typically more pronounced among less acculturated Hispanics than among others,” Mintel reports.

  • Low prices and brand names have an impact. Price is the main driver for Hispanics’ snack purchases. However, they’d rather not sacrifice quality, so they also look for brands that are well-known to them for peace of mind.

“Trying new brands that they are not familiar with is unlikely unless they had the opportunity to sample the snack first,” the report notes. “In this context, doing in-store product tasting, coupled with special offers or price promotions, could potentially yield favorable results as Hispanics tend to share with others when they find good deals and products that they like.”

  • Family members’ preferences are important. Hispanics place significant importance on what family members, especially children, request. “If they are not on board, snack types and brands gradually surrender their space in the household to others,” Ruiz says. “This is why the brands consumed in Hispanic households tend to change as they become more acculturated.”

Whatever new trends or demographic differences may arise, one thing is clear: a continued increase in the popularity of snacking will have a significant impact on grocery retailing. And those retailers and CPG companies who understand the demographic groups they serve will be those who ultimately profit most from the snacking surge.

As Mintel’s "Snacking Motivations and Attitudes" study concludes, “Focusing on the key motivations each generation has for snacking can create opportunities … to appeal to their specific needs.”

*iGeneration = internet users ages 18+; Millennials = ages 21-38; iGeneration/Millennials = ages 18-38 

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