Single Snacking

Rather than making our lives easier, technology has made it possible for our daily routines to become busier and more compressed – and no where is this more evident than with urban singletons. With less time and physical space to prepare meals, single living has played a key role in driving the global sales of snacks to over $374 billion (Nielsen), while at the same motivating brands to broaden their offerings.

Not only are brands developing new propositions to cater for a more diverse set of consumer needs, but also in emerging markets – annual snack sales grew more than twice as fast in developing regions such as Asia and South America, as they did in the developed world.

But the rise in snacking goes beyond just an increase in sales – its evidence of a general shift in eating habits, driven by single living. Whereas snacks used to be about eating between meals, now they’re eaten as a meal replacement altogether. A recent Nielsen report on snacking found that 45% of people consume snacks as a meal replacement, with breakfast the most popular occasion to be replaced at 52%.

With very little time to plan, shop or cook, and being accustomed to the instantaneous qualities of the Internet, singletons are snacking throughout the day – consuming what they want, where and when its convenient to do so. As a result, only 63% of Americans now decide what they would eat an hour before consuming it (Hartman).

Brands such as Kraft have sought to cater to this pivot away from meals to snacks with a range of protein packs called P3, containing a range of meats, cheeses and nuts, as well as ready meals that are a smaller ‘snack size’ and 200 calories.

Western consumers in particular are interested in snack foods that pare down ingredients rather than add them, something that Rude Health is catering for in its range of healthy snack bars. Other brands have sought to use very functional messaging on their packaging, in order to communicate its benefits and helping consumers make quick decisions on what product suits them best at that time.

Cheribundi, a cherry juice brand based in upstate New York, does this by using functional names such as Rebuild, Relax and Restore. Each bottle label also lists the number of cherries in each bottle, as well as extra nutrients such as vitamins and electrolytes.

This need for simplistic ingredients and basic nutritional benefits in snacks has been a key driver in the growth of subscription-based snack food brands, such as Graze, Nibblr and Love With Food.

The erosion of specific meal times in favour of a series of snacks due to single living means that brands will need to start compartmenting the day by time, and not by eating occasion. For example, instead of creating a breakfast offering, brands should look at the specific need states of a consumer at 7am-8am where time, convenience and alertness are key drivers, or at 10am-11am where the needs become more about energy and satiation.

The gradual decline of specific meal times has offered brands the opportunity to spread their offer into new areas of the day, in a way that may not of been possible with constrained eating occasions. As an example, Baxters range of beetroot juices are thick, vegetable-packed drinks that offer an energy boost – perfect as a morning or mid-afternoon snack, and helping grow the brand into new eating occasions.

The use of brown-rice, pumpkin and beetroot by Rude Health in morning based drinks and snacks shows that ingredients are no longer constrained to specific parts of the day either – consumers care less about the ingredients and are more interested in their benefits. These benefits aren’t always physical – singletons, particularly Millennials, are often as concerned about their mental wellbeing as they are about their body.

As a result, some brands are seeking to use more emotive language on their packaging to communicate both physical and mental benefits.

Chocolate brand Antidote aims to do this by linking sensorial pleasure with health, seeking to be the exception to the rule that consumers have to choose between health and indulgence.

As the rise of single living erodes traditional eating occasions in favour of convenient snack offerings that deliver more focused nutritional and emotional benefits, brands will need to diversify their offerings. Focusing on needs rather than occasions will present brands with unique messaging and packaging challenges, but also an opportunity to spread their presence into new parts of the day.

This consumer trend was explored by our director of strategy, Ben Sillence.

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