Stressed out Americans are driving the US salty snack market to new heights, with 62% of Americans consuming salty snacks as a stress-reliever – up from 16% a year ago—according to new research from Mintel.
The report says more than 30% of consumers eat salty snacks when they are bored – that being, coincidentally, a frequent contributor to stress – and up from 25% eating salty snacks as a boredom-reliever a year earlier.
Where are salty snacks consumers indulging themselves? Mintel reports that 33% of those surveyed eat them away from home, 26% and eat them while at work. As that amounts to only 59% of the study group, one night assume – from the provided information – 41% of salty snack eaters, in this group, anyway, randomly absorb them while so distracted they have no clue where they are at the time they do so.
Smokers similarly report that doing so serves to relieve stress or boredom, or both. In both examples, though, the relief could be cut-short by high blood pressure (in the case of the snacks) and cancer (linked to smoking).
While it more than likely is no longer true that teens who smoke are parented by smokers, it once was largely a given: Non-smoking parents, back in the whimsical ‘day’, often abstained for either religious or deeply-held health reasons.
Still, it is interesting to note, as Mintel did, while 35% of parents indulge in salty snacks apace with their kids, 73% of parents (vs. 55% of non-parents) support the contention that salty snack-eating is a stress reliever.
With 94 percent of Americans purchasing salty snacks and 13 percent replacing meals with them, Mintel research reveals that three quarters (74 percent) of consumers are interested in healthier salty snacking options. Along these lines, another three in five (61 percent) agree that salty snacks have too many artificial ingredients, while four in five (79 percent) find it important to be able to recognize the ingredients in salty snacks. What’s more, 58 percent of salty snack purchasers agree that it is important to buy salty snacks that contain only a few ingredients.
Despite interest in healthier options, taste trumps all when choosing salty snacks: three in five (62 percent) consumers agree that taste is more important than how healthy a salty snack is. In fact, a new flavor (38 percent) is the most influential purchasing factor for American salty snackers, along with spicy flavor (30 percent) and limited-edition/seasonal flavor (22 percent). Taste remains a key purchase factor as consumers tend to view snacking as a guilty pleasure (69 percent) and indulge in salty snacking as a way to reward themselves (63 percent).
However, taste and health are not polarizing Americans, as four in five (82 percent) consumers agree that salty snacks can be both healthy and tasty.
“Consumption of salty snacks is largely driven by emotion, including stress and boredom. Consumers are looking for ways to manage their wellbeing, and the impact of food on emotional and mental health is becoming more important. Our research reveals this is especially true among parents, with the majority agreeing that salty snacks relieve stress,” said Amanda Topper, Senior Food Analyst at Mintel. “Not only do parents’ hectic lifestyles force them to snack while on the go, but the majority who buy salty snacks agree that snacking throughout the day is a healthy alternative to regular meals. Brands that highlight health and wellness benefits can appeal to parents that are often buying snacks that can be consumed by themselves and their children.”
“Striking a balance between good tasting and good for you is key for salty snack brands. While consumers are concerned about ingredients and express interest in seeing healthier options on shelves, they still want to indulge, and flavor is a highly motivating factor. Brands that focus on products with bold, new flavors that incorporate simple ingredients will offer the best of both worlds to consumers,” continued Topper.
With consumers looking to balance simplicity and indulgence, meat snacks are driving the salty snacks category, comprising 30 percent of retail sales. From 2010-15, sales of meat snacks grew faster than any other segment (55 percent), benefiting from consumers who are looking for fewer ingredients and healthy options. Mintel research indicates that consumers are more likely to look for no artificial ingredients (22%), organic (17 percent) and high protein (33 percent) claims on meat snacks than any other salty snack.
Overall, the salty snacks category grew 29 percent from 2010-15, reaching $10.2 billion, with sales projected to climb an additional 22 percent to $12.4 billion in 2020.
“Recent innovations in flavor and format have helped to spur sales of meat snacks, which are largely perceived as a natural snack food with clean ingredients. Future growth of the burgeoning meat snacks segment, and the salty snacks category overall, will hinge on brands continuing to identify and adapt to consumers’ better-for-you interests and remain transparent in the ingredients they are adding and removing from snacks,” concluded Topper.