With a January survey by Surveygoo finding that the vast majority of American millennials replace at least one meal a week with a snack, and a full half of respondents saying they exchange a meal for a snack a minimum of four times a week, the ‘snackification’ of meals is a clear trend demanding industry development.

The trend is one that has been previously reported on, but not overly studied. And while the study had a fairly small respondent pool – surveying 300 male and female Americans aged between 18 and 35 that snack regularly – it highlights that consumers are looking to increase the convenience of their eating habits. Moreover, they are looking to do so without compromising on either taste or nutrition.

Commissioned by Welch’s Global Ingredients Group, the study seems to have been testing the field for Welch’s FruitWorx real fruit pieces and powders. Produced from the North American Concord grape, described in press releases as “a true American superfruit”, FruitWorx is almost directly designed to appeal to the market highlighted in the survey.

Wayne Lutomski, Vice President International & Welch’s Global Ingredients Group, said: “The survey quantifies and expands on what we already suspected: the replacement of mealtime with snacktime among Millennial snackers is widespread. These consumers need their snacks to be convenient for their busy lives and contribute to their daily nutrition needs. Our survey findings tell us that there is an opportunity for snack products that can check all of the boxes – taste, convenience and natural nutrition.”

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The survey’s broader validity may be up for debate, given the small size of the respondent group, but, if taking into account wider reporting on the snacking trend, it does seem to fall into a general indication of the snack market rising to the fore in place of conventional meals. Welch’s interest in such findings is obvious, the question is whether other sections of the industry will attempt to capitalise on the same trend and if doing so will produce greater innovation to match demand.

Tackling texture

Importantly, although convenience is a clear driving factor in the increasing ‘snackification’ of mealtimes, the most important factor in guiding the choice of snack was highlighted in the survey as taste with 80% of respondents saying this was a crucial element. The challenge faced here is that prominent snack options, such as protein bars, are easily affected by textural deterioration during shelf life.

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Attempting to solve this issue is Arla Foods Ingredients, having developed a whey protein, named Nutrilac® PB-8420, that is designed to ensure protein bars retain a “chewy” texture for up to 12 months. Given that the Packaged Facts: 2016 Food Formulation and Ingredient Trends study found that 45% of US consumers had bought a high-protein bar in the last month, there is clearly a large market for more product development.

Inge Lise Povlsen, Senior Category Manager for Bakery & Beverages at Arla Foods Ingredients, said: “It’s no secret that protein can sometimes present formulation challenges. These solutions all address common problems with texture and taste, opening the door to new product development opportunities that will tap into the growing popularity of high protein products.”