The Snack Odyssey: Charting a Course in Foodservice

Americans love their snacks. While retail is still the go-to source for 92% of snacking occasions, the remaining 8% that occurs in foodservice is full of potential for food and beverage snack manufacturers. Understanding the behaviors and habits of away-from-home snackers will help brands make the most of this opportunity.

Foodservice Snacking

Research reveals a fascinating twist: snacking habits change depending on location. At home, consumers tend to reach for familiar, shelf-stable options like chips, cookies, bars and trail mix. But the snacking game changes once consumers walk out the door. Foodservice locations offer a wider variety than a typical pantry and patrons are open to options that may traditionally be considered meals. Breakfast sandwiches, chicken nuggets and even burgers become afternoon snacks. Specialty coffee and frozen/slushy beverages also join the ranks of popular on-the-go purchases.


Food and Beverage Indulgence vs. Health

Time of day is another factor for consumers when considering snack choices. Many gravitate towards indulgence as the day progresses––between 3 PM and 11 PM, customers are looking to satisfy cravings. This presents an opportunity for snack manufacturers to offer exciting and flavorful options that help operators cater to these late snackers.


However, health remains a key consideration throughout the day, with 54% of consumers seeing snacks as an essential part of their healthy eating plan. Furthermore, 62% actively seek healthy options when snacking, highlighting a growing demand for nutritious on-the-go choices. This trend underscores the importance of offering better-for-you snacks alongside indulgent options.

Highlight a mix of nutritious and indulgent snacks to help operators meet their consumers’ habits and preferences.

Generational Snacking: Tailoring to Diverse Tastes in Foodservice

Understanding variations in snacking preferences between generations and income levels is crucial for success in the foodservice arena. Snacking habits differ significantly between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers. For instance, Gen Z is likely to gravitate towards innovative and trend-driven snacks, while Baby Boomers might prioritize familiar and nostalgic options. Income levels also influence snacking choices at foodservice locations. Consumers with higher disposable income may be more likely to seek out premium and organic snack options, whereas budget-conscious consumers tend to prioritize affordability.

Different generations snack differently, with Gen Z preferring trendy offerings and Baby Boomers leaning towards nostalgia.

The Power of Research and Segmentation for Food and Beverage Brands

Given the complexities of snacking, conducting targeted consumer research and audience segmentation is vital for CPG manufacturers. By delving into the "who," "what," "when," "where" and "why" behind snacking behavior, you can gain valuable insights to inform your foodservice strategy and build your case to operators.


Conducting research and segmentation can help you:


  • Identify Unique Opportunities: Uncover underserved demographics in the foodservice snacking landscape. Perhaps there's a gap in healthy afternoon snacks for busy professionals, or a lack of exciting flavor profiles for Gen Z consumers. By identifying these niches, you can develop targeted snacking solutions.
  • Optimize Distribution: Understanding the snacking habits of your target audience by income level allows you to optimize distribution channels. Premium snacks might be best suited for high-end cafes and restaurants, while budget-friendly options could find success in convenience stores and fast-food chains.

Stay up to date on the latest consumer preferences and foodservice trends and conduct research to identify opportunities.

Staying Ahead of the Curve with Ongoing Research

Consumer preferences for snacks are constantly evolving. Regular research will keep you informed about the latest trends in foodservice snacking––the rise of plant-based options, the growing demand for portion control or the increasing focus on functional ingredients. By staying ahead of the curve, you can ensure your brand remains relevant to today's snacking consumers.


Unlocking the Potential: A Partnership for Success

The foodservice industry offers a vast and exciting landscape for CPG snack manufacturers. By conducting targeted research, fostering innovation and strategically navigating distribution channels, you can unlock the full potential of this market.


A full-service marketing agency with foodservice expertise can help you navigate this process. Marriner can provide the research, insights and strategic guidance you need to develop a winning snacking strategy for the foodservice arena. Reach out to David Melnick at [email protected] or 410.336.1000.



The Snack Journey: Where We Are and Where We’re Going, Circana 2024

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