Snacks: Predicting the Future of Snacking

“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.” Possibly the greatest line from The Godfather encompasses a common agreed upon notion with consumers: food is king.

With food being a driving source of profit for many Fortune 500 companies, how does one tackle the growing demand for satisfaction among consumers? The simple answer: know what they want before they want it. Maybe not so simple, but its what we tell our customers. In order to be first to market you need to give the consumers something they didn’t even know they wanted.

How does this process even begin? Stop looking at diets, start looking at lifestyles.

The flavors that consumers crave will always coincide with their lifestyles, their habits and their experiences. If food is a driving source of profit, or the formerly mentioned “king,” doesn’t it make sense that it be affected by our lifestyle choices and vice versa?

A Bold Stamp In The Flavor Passport

As people grow, learn and experience new things, they need their flavors to grow with them. We’ve watched the success of cooking shows grow, starting with Julia Child going all the way to Emeril, Rachel and Bobby. Consumers started expanding their palettes by watching these shows and moved on to actually experiencing new tastes through travel and unique dining experiences. Moving to Pittsburgh two years ago from New York, I never thought I would see such a melting pot of dining opportunities. But even Pittsburgh, a small yet growing community, is inundated with flavors from South East Asia, The Middle East, Mexico and more. The city even has an entire eatery dedicated to countries that are in conflict with the United States. With endless possibilities for flavor experiences in their meals, consumers are starting to want the same bold and exotic flavors from their snacks too.

Millennial Revolution

With Millennials aging into the role of decision-makers, companies are quickly learning that they need to appeal to this younger group but struggling to do it successfully. The Millennial consumer can be a nightmare for companies if they don’t know how to listen. Sometimes getting on the floor and playing with the kids is the only way to appease them.

A huge differentiator between Millennials and older generations is their lack of boundaries when it comes to meal times. Because of the snackification we have seen over the past few years, this generation is not afraid to eat a salad for breakfast or some pancakes for lunch. Certain meals are no longer constricted to certain parts of the day. Just look at bacon, what was once a breakfast side has now become a staple throughout the day. We’ve seen bacon go from the breakfast table, to a delicious burger topper and all the way to a surprisingly tasty addition for desserts!

Another resonating trend for this generation is the classic throwback. Millennials are exceptionally nostalgic for pieces of their childhood. Social phenoms like #ThrowbackThursday or #FlashbackFriday flood social media newsfeeds on a weekly basis. According to Hashtag Scout, the two hashtags and all their different forms rake in over 843,000 mentions per month. This trend extends beyond just social media; consumers crave memories and even flavors from their childhood.

As the world has turned to Greek yogurt and breakfast sandwiches for their morning meal, General Mills made a play that would rock breakfast to its core. In an effort to return sales to cereal, the company re-released French Toast Crunch, a popular brand that had been discontinued almost a decade earlier. After years of fans signing Facebook petitions, General Mills finally heard them loud and clear. The petitioners, who were in their teens when the brand was discontinued, were demanding a breakfast throwback. Now in their mid to late twenties, they are fully capable of buying their own breakfast and it was the perfect time for General Mills to deliver.

Sharing is Caring

Not to be confused with the Care Bear, sharing is part of our everyday life, but the word “share” took on a whole new meaning with the social media revolution. Consumers share their everyday activities online and look for the same from their network, making them more “social” than ever before. Snacking has started to follow this trend, as snacking for younger generations becomes a social occasion. But lets think beyond the just splitting a cookie and think about sharing in terms of its viral abilities. Frito-Lay launched an immensely popular global social media contest asking consumers what flavor of chips they want to see next. By setting up a simple submission form, Frito-Lay was able to engage the odd and unique taste buds of their consumers in a way no focus group could before them. By just asking directly, they were able to give consumers exactly what they want and create viral buzz while doing it.

The Consumer Insight Sandwich

Brands have been changing their products based on lifestyle trends since before it was the cool thing to do. And probably before they really realized they were doing it. In the 1950’s after the TV was invented, the staid parlor transformed into the living room as consumers started to spend more and more time in front of the TV and less time reading by the fire. Given that it was difficult to eat a true meal with utensils in the living room, there became a need for more finger foods, leading to the increase of potato chip popularity. In 1952, Lipton needed a new use for their soup mix product. A marketing campaign was launched that taught consumers to mix their Lipton French Onion Soup Mix with sour cream, creating the first mainstream dip that eventually paired with chips to make the perfect TV finger food.

Lifestyle trends are the meat of or business. We use consumer opinions about products to start the sandwich but when it comes down to it, without some knowledge about a consumer’s general lifestyle and habits, all you’ve got is bread and that makes for a pretty dry lunch if you ask me.

-Sara Fogel, Senior Associate Consumer Insights