In many ways, the tumultuous COVID-19 pandemic has catalyzed continued growth of existing patterns across snacking. For many consumers, day-to-day snacking increased, sometimes fueled by external pressures related to disrupted work, school, and the overall societal status quo. We seek solace in comfort, and the snack industry delivered.
While consumers were already snacking more throughout the day, this was escalated even more while people were working and nesting at home during the pandemic. 46 percent of consumers said they were snacking more during the pandemic and 58 percent of consumers said snacking with be part of the post pandemic "new normal."
Even though we are now nearing the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers have become comfortable with snacking more at home, including snacking on tortilla chips. This trend will continue through 2021, but consumers are also searching for better-for-you and plant-based tortilla chip options.
Brands in the snack-mix and nut spaces could be forgiven for waxing a little Dickensian as they look back on the year that was. For while the events that characterized 2020, and that persist, to an extent, today, don't quite measure up to "the best of times" or "the worst of times," they do tell something of "A Tale of Two Snacking Scenarios."
Puffed and extruded snacks have been a staple in pantries for many years. Recently, however, manufacturers have been upping their game, using clean-label ingredients and a variety of different flavors to attract new consumers to the category.
The hard pretzel category grew steadily in the past year as consumers stuck at home continued to snack, although fortunes varied significantly from brand to brand. During the past year, consumer focus on cleaner labels and healthier ingredients has ramped up, while manufacturers have continued to experiment with a wider variety of flavors. Pretzel product and ingredient makers predict those trends will continue.
Variety is the spice of life when it comes potato chips. While classic chips still own the lion's share of the U.S. market, salty snack companies are offering new flavor combinations in a variety of packaging sizes. New flavors include spicy buffalo, hot BBQ and cauliflower, and many new offerings are gluten-free and Non-GMO Project verified.
The crackers category is home to multiple iconic brands synonymous with snacking, including Cheez-It, Goldfish, and Ritz, all billion-dollar brands. As part of the foundation of the grain-based baking industry, crackers also present significant opportunities for growth through incrementally better-for-you offerings and highly innovative nutrition-forward products, as well as premium and specialized lines.
The COVID-19 pandemic has multiple lessons for the snack industry. Overall, the snack industry has had a strong, up year. But the degree of a "COVID bump" varied from category to category. As we emerge and plan for the future, recent, and current, product purchase behaviors can help provide a roadmap for what's to come.