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Snacking in the pandem-flation era

Despite feeling financially squeezed, Canadians are willing to shell out for their favourite snacks

For most of us, the pandemic experience is in the rearview mirror. However, lifestyle shifts realized as a result of this event, crossed with current inflationary pressures, continue to yield unique changes in daily snacking behaviours.

Canadians’ noshing habits remain an integral part of everyday eating patterns, with the average individual consuming a food or beverage as a snack 11 times per day. 

READ: Despite rising grocery prices, consumers are still budgeting for snacks

With more than two-thirds of eating and drinking occasions in an average day occurring between meals, it is critical to understand how trends and triggers are changing and re-shaping consumers’ snacking choices.

Here are some key change factors to consider when building winning snack strategies:

Lipstick effect

It should come as no surprise that rising prices top Canadians’ concerns and this is exacerbated by rising interest rates amid high household debt levels. However, future or intended upgrades in spending are highest for groceries as consumers prioritize food over other discretionary purchases.

A key factor driving this prioritizing of food is the role it plays in bolstering daily enjoyment and experience. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as the “lipstick effect” or small indulgence demand. Consumers treat themselves with small, affordable indulgences in times where larger-ticket spending is curbed by inflationary headwinds.

READ: Snacking surge: How brands and retailers can satisfy consumer cravings

Ipsos’ recent FIVE data release reveals this need state is up more than 20% versus the pre-pandemic period, with demand peaking at the evening snack, which is benefitting categories such as frozen novelties, ice cream, sweet baked goods, chocolate and potato chips.

Consider promotions and in-store initiatives that enable consumers to please loved ones, treat themselves and escape from life’s daily stresses and financial worries.

Meal replacement priorities

The return to hectic schedules has brought about a greater reliance on snacks that serve as a meal replacement.

In fact, one in five adults adhere to an eating regime that focuses solely on five or more small meals throughout the day rather than prioritizing three squares a day. The mini-mealing or meal replacement regime is up 15% versus a year ago, according to Ipsos’ research, and offers a unique opportunity for many categories such as cheese, crackers, fresh fruits and vegetables, bars, nuts and dips.

READ: Budget-conscious Canadians are still adding cheese to their shopping carts

Marketing strategies that promote functional needs like freshness and energy, as well as targeting new mood food requirements such as mental focus and concentration is critical. 

Return to on-the-go noshing

Time-constrained Canadians are seeking easy portable solutions. Close to one in five eating occasions takes place away from home (+10%) with demand likely to grow over the coming months to re-match pre-pandemic levels.

Needs driving portable choices include suitable format sizes, single-serve portions and factors targeting rising ethical considerations such as recyclable or reusable packaging. 

Portability drivers are also tied to factors that please and nurture kids.

The kids are all right

Ipsos FIVE data that tracks habits and needs among individuals two- to five-years of age continues to show that kids remain the most prolific snackers with eat rates growing over time. We are raising a generation of new snackers, the likes of which we’ve not seen before.

READ: Crunch time for salty snacks

Both parents and kids are looking to meet increasingly rigid parental and social snacking standards. Parents seek clean ingredients and healthy options that prompt performance, but also please their children and offer a tasty treat.

Snacking among youngsters under 13 years old requires unique formulations and specific on-pack communications, but offers tremendous innovation opportunities. Low sugar, organic, peanut free and protein-enriched top labels of importance with dairy-free pronouncements increasingly important.

Snack attack

Snacking will remain strong even in the face of financial pressures, with consumers willing to spend on their favourite items to help them get through their evolving daily routines, work commutes and, most importantly, for enjoyment, indulgence and to satisfy cravings

This article first appeared in Canadian Grocer’s June/July 2023 issue.

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