“Fundamental changes in eating patterns largely driven by increasingly busy lifestyles mean that the traditional pattern of three meals a day has been giving way over some years to a less formal eating pattern,” said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights. “This is shifting to a more fragmented and flexible eating style, encompassing multiple small meals or snacks, often eaten alone or on the go,” she added.
This rise in the so-called “fourth meal” culture has increased demand for quick and convenient yet healthy solutions for busy consumers. This is creating opportunities for wholesome, satisfying and sustaining snacks to fulfill the role of mini meals and play a more meaningful role in contributing to refueling and nutritional needs throughout the day.
Healthy snacking choices are seeing the fastest growth rates for NPD overall, with nutritious options gaining ground. This is led by vegetable-based snacks, with an increasingly high profile for on-trend ingredients such as more unusual nuts, ancient grains, hummus, avocado, seaweed, hemp, and baobab, for example. On the go and lighter options such as miniatures, bites, and puffs are also increasingly in evidence, as is the search for the right balance between health and indulgence.
There are also regional differences in preferred snack types, with Innova Market Insights consumer research indicating that nuts & seeds, chocolate, and yogurt/drinking yogurt are the top three choices in the U.S., for example, while chocolate leads from potato-based snacks and sweet biscuits/cookies in the U.K.
“As traditional meal times and occasions disintegrate and people seek quick, convenient, yet healthy solutions for busy lifestyles,” Williams notes. “We are continuing to move away from the traditional three-meals-a-day norm,” she concluded.