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Snacks Stake Their Claim at Meal Time: NPD Group

Snack foods are further staking their claim as the go-to eating occasion among U.S. consumers, according to new research from The NPD Group.

Consumers are reaching for traditional snack foods both in between and at meals, particularly those that are perceived as healthy, which NPD forecasts will drive approximately 5 percent growth of snack foods eaten at main meals over the next five years – 86.4 billion eatings in 2018.

The fastest-growing snack foods eaten at meals will be in the better-for-you categories, including refrigerated yogurt, bars and fresh fruit, which consumers perceive as more healthful and convenient. Sweetened snacks foods and desserts, which are less likely to be meal-time candidates, will be flat over the next five years, finds NPD's "The Future of Eating: Who’s Eating What in 2018?"

The growth in the better-for-you snack category is driven primarily by Millennials (24-37), Gen X (38-48) and Gen Z (0-23), all of whom express positive attitudes about snacking, a desire to eat more healthfully, and a need for convenience.

“The growth in better-for-you snack foods in between and at meals is a good example of how consumers are redefining the foods they eat, and how the traditional lines between snack foods and main meal foods are blurring,” says Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. “Consumers clearly associate certain times of day with main meals and between meal occasions but what they are eating at those occasions is changing.” 

Seifer noted that retailers and marketers alike can capitalize on this continuing trend by "providing convenience and addressing the needs that these foods meet rather than positioning foods in the pre-defined buckets of snacks or main meal foods.” 

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