Snacking in America

Snacking in America

On menus in various segments, snacking has a slightly different set of consumer drivers. QSR’s may see patrons at the drive-thru looking for quick fuel and a flavorful protein fix. While full service and fast casual restaurants see an increase in snacking for different reasons. Their guests are looking for flavor experimentation with less investment, which is being addressed with well-priced small plates and snacks boasting interesting global flavors to drive traffic and incremental sales.


Applebee’s is positioning snacks as an important part of its reinvention story. Jason Reeves, senior brand manager says … “snacks speak to the heart of what customers want: More choice, variety, excitement and adventure”2.


Lifestyle Changes 

Snacking is increasingly ingrained in consumers’ everyday eating behavior. Snacking consumption has been on the rise since 2012, but the last two years have marked a particularly notable growth (83% of consumers in 2016 vs. 76% in 2014 snack on a daily basis)3.


Consumers are busy and constantly on the go. When they do slow down enough to go through a drive thru or to meet friends socially they seem to forego the full meal and opt for a snack, small plate or plate of shareables. 42% of consumers have changed their definition of a snack in the past two years3. Regardless of the snack format, it should answer at least a few key consumer demands such as global flavors, wellness, and always the new definition of quality that includes descriptors like fresh, artisan, and real food. 

“Life is so chaotic with work and all the kids’ activities I never have time for a meal. Even when I do meet up with friends, its odd times and shared snacks and a drink.”

Healthful Snacks

“Being healthy should be a lifelong journey. I feel so much better if I don’t eat a huge meal and I just fuel up with smart snacks a few times a day.”

40% of consumers are snacking on healthier foods than two years ago3. Consumers are beginning to choose their snacks and intake with greater focus on the energy level that item can provide. Iconoculture calls this trend, snack consumption for the “Long Haul”. Consumers are also learning that a brief exercise session can also boost energy instead of a candy bar.


As competition mounts for these high-margin snacking occasions, operators will need to refine their snack menu and positioning to ensure that they are meeting consumers’ wide range of snack need states3.


Don’t let this shift to snacking steal your business.Use these ideas to customize new snacks and appetizers to grow your business. The descriptions on the recipes are perfect for LTO menu board or menu descriptions. 


1 Hartman Group's Food Culture Forecast 4.2.2015

2 Restaurant Hospitality, Snack Attack, August 2015

3 2016 Technomic Inc.; Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report