CHICAGO — Consumers’ preference for snacking as a regular eating behavior over traditional mealtime eating occasions continues to gather momentum, according to the third annual State of Snacking report released Jan. 19 by Mondelez International, Inc. Sixty-four percent of global consumers said they prefer to eat many small meals throughout the day, as opposed to a few large ones, up five percentage points from 2019.

To create the State of Snacking report, The Harris Poll through an online survey contacted 3,055 adults aged 18 and over in 12 global markets from Oct. 5-27 on behalf of Mondelez International.

The survey found consumers are seeking out snacks to meet a variety of needs to a greater degree than they were two years ago, with convenience and freshness rising to the top of the list of attributes that regularly impact snacking choices. Ninety-one percent of consumers surveyed in 2021 listed convenience as their top attribute, up from 87% in 2020. Freshness was just behind at 90% (up from 85% in 2020), followed by indulgence at 85% (up from 81%), healthy at 84% (up from 80%), energizing at 82% (up from 79%) and unique at 74% (up from 68%).

The definition of snacking also has evolved in recent years. According to the survey, 82% said “snacks have served different purposes for me at different phases of my life.” Digging deeper into the data, Gen Z consumers said they are more likely to snack to relieve anxiety (86% vs. 76% of all consumers) and boredom (79% vs. 69% of all consumers), while millennials are the most likely generation to snack to meet their nutritional needs (85% vs 78%) and Gen X most often seeks out snacks as a comfort food (85% vs 82%).

More than three-fourths of consumers surveyed said they eat different snacks today than they ate three years ago, and 84% said they anticipate there will be more snack options to choose from in the next three years.

Consumers also are seeking snacks as well-being boosters throughout their daily lives, part of a nuanced approach to nourishment that Mondelez noted as part of its research. The survey found 80% of consumers are seeking snacks to improve physical health, while 75% cited mental health and 80% mentioned emotional health. Meanwhile, 65% said they are seeking snacks that help them improve their social health.

Different snacks lead to different nourishment needs, though, the survey found. Seventy-six percent of consumers said they seek different snacks when they are seeking physical nourishment than when they are seeking emotional nourishment. Eighty-eight percent said it’s important that their diet includes foods that are for nutrition while 81% noted the importance of satisfaction. Eighty-five percent of consumers said they eat at least one snack for sustenance and one snack for indulgence each day.

The survey found a rising appetite for functional snacks, with 78% of consumers saying they snack regularly to “take care of their body” or serve “nutritional needs,” up eight percentage points from 2020. Seventy-two percent of consumers said they are seeking snacks that are portion controlled, up from 63% in 2020. Looking ahead, between 40% and 48% of consumers surveyed said they expect to seek out snacks that offer the following attributes in the next few years: vitamin rich, boost immunity, high in protein, support gut health, low in sugar, carbs or fat, and natural/organic. A smaller percentage (29%) said they imagine seeking out plant-based functional snacks and gluten-free (23%).

As important as nourishment is, 79% of consumers said some snacks should be just for enjoyment or satisfaction. Eighty-five percent of consumers said they don’t want to sacrifice on flavor, and 74% said they can’t imagine a world without chocolate.

The global pandemic has changed the way consumers think about snacking and how they shop. Eighty percent of consumers said they expect to be able to buy the snacks they want whenever they want, with 74% noting they expect to be able to use any channel they want. As part of that trend, 53% of consumers said they shopped more using at least three nontraditional or emerging channels in 2021 than in 2020.

“Our State of Snacking report found that the definition of snacking is evolving among consumers globally, which is reshaping the meaning of snacking within people’s lives,” said Dirk Van de Put, chairman and chief executive officer of Mondelez International. “Snacking is much more than a source of nutrition and indulgence; it also is a source of social connection and inspiration for broadened experiences. Notably, consumers continue to prefer snacking occasions throughout the day over traditional mealtime — as this growing behavior, accelerated by the ongoing pandemic, increasingly becomes part of daily life. That’s why we are proud to continue offering the right snack, for the right moment, made the right way.”

- The full report can be found online, via Mondelez International's website.