Snack consumption is on the rise, as half of today’s consumers (51%) say that they eat snacks at least twice a day, an increase from the 48% who said the same in 2012, according to Technomic Inc.’s updated Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report. In addition, about a third of consumers (31%) told the Chicago-based research and consulting firm that they’re snacking more frequently than they were just two years ago.

Not only are consumers snacking more often, they’re broadening their definition of a “snack.” These days, a wider range of foods—and beverages—are now viewed as snacks, and convenience stores and other retailers are sparking competition with restaurants to meet the growing demand.

“Snacking occasions represent a growth channel for restaurant operators,” says Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic. “The retail market is aggressively promoting snacks, but there’s plenty of room for restaurants to expand their snack programs and grab share. By providing more innovative, healthy and easily portable snacks, and boosting variety, restaurants can position themselves to increase incremental traffic and sales—particularly among a younger customer base.”

The report offers several other interesting findings:

• Consumers eat snacks both between meals and as meal replacements. Nearly half of consumers (49%) eat snacks between meals and 45% replace one or two daily meals with a snack.

• 45% of consumers who order snacks at restaurants order from the dollar or value menu.

• 50% of consumers indicate that healthfulness is very important to them when choosing a snack.

• Portability is increasingly vital: 60% of today’s consumers, compared to 55% in 2012, cite portability as an important or extremely important factor when choosing a snack.

Check out this "Spotlight on Snacking" infographic for more information.