Snacks Shift Toward the ‘New Normal’

Even so, Frito-Lay finds consumers keeping some snacking habits
Snacks familiar and new are helping consumers get through the pandemic.

Thanks to the pandemic, snacking could take on greater importance during the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, at least according to the latest findings from Frito-Lay.

According to the brand’s latest U.S. Snack Index — with at least some of its data stemming from recent IRI research — 86% of consumers during the Memorial Day holiday and going forward “will probably bring snacks to a small group gathering.” And snacks could come in handy during ongoing stay-at-home mandates, with “more than three-quarters (77%) of Americans expect to make changes to their Memorial Day plans in 2020 — including 82% noting they'll stay at home,” said Frito-Lay, part of PepsiCo.

Consumers seem to have graduated from the panic buying that marked the early phase of pandemic store closures and lockdowns. But those shoppers are still seeking comfort and stress-relief via food. Such desires are apparent in the world of snacks, at least going by the recent findings from Frito-Lay, which has obvious impacts for food retailers and the larger supply chain.

“The Frito-Lay Snack Index found 85% of respondents say eating their favorite snack makes them feel normal,” the brand said. “While the overwhelming majority (83%) said their favorite summer snacks remind them of good times and nearly half (48%) said eating their favorite snack makes them feel happy.”

More specifically, data from IRI finds that “salty snacks have been the No. 1 food item that's contributed to sales growth at retailers since early March when consumers were shifting purchasing priorities amid stay-at-home orders for various states.” Frito-Lay said Tuesday that is own data indicate similar demand among its customers, “as in recent weeks consumers have increased purchasing snack items like Lay's (up 32%), Cheetos Popcorn (contributing to 65% of the ready-to-eat popcorn category) and Tostitos (up 42%).”

But shoppers during the most recent stages of the COVID-19 outbreak also aren’t shy about trying out new snacks, the brand added. The “U.S. Snack Index survey data also revealed many consumers are still trying new snacks (with 92% saying they plan to continue to eat them once the pandemic is over) and about one-fifth of respondents are developing new rituals around food,” Frito-Lay said “The most willing groups to try a new snack in the ‘new normal’ skew younger. Gen Z and millennial (consumers) tend to be the most adventurous with nearly four in 10 (36%) saying they are likely to try a new snack option.”

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