Our State of the Industry: Bakery issue will be arriving shortly, both in print and online, and it's been interesting to see how snacking habits have shifted since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Last year, consumers were searching for whole ingredients and clean-label snacks. This year, they were searching for that, prior to the beginning of the pandemic, but now it's "anything goes": preservatives are once again king, due to their capacity for long shelf life, and consumers are looking for the comfort foods of their youth, including foods like snack cakes, cookies, and bars. 

Back in March, I wrote about how consumers are eating more comfort foods, and delicious ones, at that. Frito-Lay recently released a Snack Index about consumers' eating habits, and they found the following, based on market trends and the U.S. Snack Index:

  • Summer gatherings evolve, but snacks are still a welcome guest.
  • People are adapting how they snack to fit their changing plans, with 86 percent saying they will probably bring snacks to a small group gathering and more than one in three (34 percent) expecting to do more virtual hangouts with friends over the next few months.
  • As people continue looking for some level of normalcy, many are turning to snacking.
  • 85 percent of respondents say eating their favorite snack makes them feel normal.
  • While the overwhelming majority (83 percent) said their favorite summer snacks remind them of good times and nearly half (48 percent) said eating their favorite snack makes them feel happy.

Frito-Lay also said that when Americans find their favorite snacks, they are stocking up: 73 percent of respondents said they are likely to buy more than usual in stores.

On the flip side, though, our sister magazine Candy Industry published an article recently on how consumers are still trying to eat healthy—even with snacking. Author Brandon Leong said:

"If anything, the pandemic seems to have increased people’s awareness for the need of nourishing foods. Nevertheless, nourishing foods don’t end at the dinner table, and snacks that skew on the healthy side of indulgent are seeing increased interest these days. If a product can strike that balance between healthy and indulgent, they can strike while the sweet and snack iron is hot with consumers."

For our April cover story we wrote about PeaTos, which would fit perfectly into this description: think Cheetos or Funyuns, but with a heathier skew. 

So what type of snacker are you—do you look for indulgent foods, or those that are healthier and perhaps contain more better-for-you ingredients? There's no "right or wrong" answer, and both consumers and companies will reap the rewards.