Tracking Snacks with NPD Group

Since he began working for NPD nearly three decades ago, Harry Balzer has become a national expert on food and diet trends, speaking at many industry events and television news programs, among others. Recently, Balzer, who is vice president of the NPD Group, chatted with Confectioner about the snack market.
Q: Are there distinct types of snacking situations?
“Yes, there are. NPD has found that these situations are distinguished by ‘social’ versus ‘individual’ occasions, in-home vs. away-from-home and also the activity. The types of snack foods consumed at these distinct situations vary. For example, hard candy and chocolate candy/bars are highly developed at work and on-the-go situations, but not so with chewy candy. These situations also have distinct consumer profiles. For example, on-the-go snacking, which takes place in the car or in transit, tends to be males 35-44 and females 18-54. Kids are more likely to eat snack foods at ‘social’ situations.”
Q: Are people snacking more or less than in the past? In what ways?
“No, consumers are not snacking more — but they are not snacking less, either. Snacking dynamics are continually evolving with the many new offerings in the marketplace. For example, we see that bars, sugarless gum, chocolate candy, and multigrain chips have all become more popular as between-meal options. Bars and multi-grain chips have also grown more popular as meal accompaniments. Growth in chocolate candy has been driven by in-home consumption.”
Q: How much does snacking behavior change as we age?
“Kids have a higher propensity to eat snack-oriented foods between meals than do adults. The 18-to-24 years tends to be a transitional age — individuals of this age group consume snack foods between meals less often than younger kids, but more often than adults. Meanwhile, adults in their 30s, 40s and older all eat these types of foods between meals at a similar, but lower, frequency.”
Q: Is the 100-calorie snack a trend or a fad? Please explain.
“The 100-calorie packs will continue to enjoy growth in the short-term and expand to new categories, but this will evolve to general ‘portion control’ packs that may or may not be 100-calorie based.”
Q: What snacks look good from a growth perspective?
“Sugar-free gum has seen significant growth over the past three years. Sugar-free mints/strips have also seen consistent growth during this period. Candy has not yet benefited from the sugar-free trend, but could be a potential future growth area.”
Defining Instant Consumables
Chocolate candy/candy bars and gum together represent nearly one fourth of the instant consumables market, which is defined by The NPD Group as:
• Snack-oriented convenience foods purchased ready-to-eat
• Consumed right after purchase (or within an hour of purchase)
• Consumed away from home (but not at a restaurant)
• As a snack or meal replacement.
Over 63 million people eat an instant consumable on a regular basis — at least once a week, according to NPD.