It's Snack o'clock somewhere


    By NCS Marketing

    Is it time to take snacking seriously? We all have warm, nostalgic memories of small after-school snacks. But snacking today is much bigger — in 2022, snacking is adulting.

    More than ever, Americans are sneaking moments to snack. Think about it. When do you find yourself a bit peckish? 

    1. During the mid-afternoon slump
    2. After four straight hours of video calls
    3. Family TV time
    4. While commuting
    5. All of the above

    Snack food isn’t limited to just after-school anymore. It’s a must-have pantry staple: 58% of consumers say they always have a supply of snack foods — like chips, nuts or pretzels — in the house, according to a consumer sentiment survey we commissioned in March 2021. Likewise, 38% of Americans say they need a supply of sweets on hand. And yes, that includes cookies, ice cream and chocolate.

    Household spending underscores this sentiment. Salty products had the highest year-over-year increase in US spend per household than any other item in the snack category starting in February 2019 — and every February after that, according to NCS purchase data. Over this same period, salty snacks also grew at a faster pace when we looked at spending per trip to the grocery store.  

    If you’re saying to yourself every time you open your pantry during the workday, “I feel like I’m doing this more frequently than before the pandemic,” you’re not wrong. 

    Part A: Household spend on salty snacks Feb. 2021 vs Feb 2022. Part B: Percent change per trip to the store Feb. 2021 vs. Feb. 2022.

    With more time at home and fewer opportunities to socialize with co-workers, 67% of Americans say snacking is enjoyed more now than before the pandemic, according to the same survey. But what, exactly, are Americans’ favorite types of snacks?

    Whether they’re snacking at home or school, in the office, or while driving, Americans are reaching more for salty snacks and variety packs, and less often for nutty snacks. 

    That’s only part of the story though. Over the course of the pandemic, more consumers have reached for gum to satisfy the snacking urge and reap the health benefits. In fact, gum can help you protect your mouth from tooth decay and erosion, ease signs of acid reflux, burn more calories and improve your memory. (2021, WebMD)

    The Gum Hypothesis

    Some also speculate that increased spending on gum is a sign life is returning to normal. After all, we want fresher breath when we’re interacting with others in-person and without masks. So, we buy more gum. And yet…spend per trip to the store on gum has grown faster throughout the pandemic.

    A bar chart of percentage changes in spending per trip to the store for gum.

    Life has changed since the pandemic began, and snacking has found a new place and purpose in Americans’ daily routines. Even as we navigate toward a new post-pandemic future, it seems a variety of snacks will continue to fill up our pantries.  

    What usually pairs well with a tasty snack? A tasty drink.  NCS insights show how energy drinks are on the rise. 



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