The reasons why consumers snack are diverse and varied. Consumers from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam rank enjoyment as the foremost reason for snacking, a view shared by majority of global respondents.
The global snacking industry is worth a whopping US$374 billion. While Europe and North America make up the majority of worldwide snack sales (US$167 billion and US$124 billion, respectively), Southeast Asia’s developing nations are contributing significantly to the category’s growth, posting 3.6% year-on-year growth compared to 2% globally.
The competitive landscape in the snacking industry is fierce. As snack manufacturers look to tailor offerings to deliver snacks that appeal to both the palate and the psyche, knowing what drives a consumer to pick one snack rather than another is vital to stay competitive, says The Nielsen Co in its Snack Attack report. The recently released report was based on findings from The Nielsen Global Survey of Snacking, which polled more than 30,000 consumers from 60 countries. [Note: the survey is based only on the behaviour of respondents with online access.]
Susan Dunn, executive vice president, Global Professional Services, Nielsen, says: “Demand is driven primarily by taste and health considerations and consumers are not willing to compromise on either. The right balance is ultimately decided by the consumer at the point of purchase. Understanding the why before the buy provides the foresight necessary to deliver the right product to the right consumer at the right time.”
Why we snack
The reasons why consumers snack are diverse and varied. Consumers from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam rank enjoyment as the foremost reason for snacking, a view shared by majority of global respondents. Conversely, 74% of consumers in the Philippines view snacks as a source of nutrition and 79% of Thai consumers snack to satisfy a craving. Snacking is also considered by many as a moment for sharing with family and friends and satisfying hunger between meals, giving rise to opportunities to adjust packaging for single serves for snacking in between meals or family-size packs for sharing.
“There’s a perception that snacks are intended more for in-between meals than for actual meal replacements,” said Dunn. “But busy, on-the-go lifestyles often dictate a need for quick meals, and many opt for fast food options that can be high in calories and low in health benefits. There is a massive untapped opportunity to gain market share in the nutritious, portable and easy-to-eat meal alternative market that snack manufacturers could fill.”
Nutrition is the reason why 63% of global respondents eat snacks, and 61% snack to get an energy boost. Many also consume snacks when taking a break (60%) and when passing the time (53%). Therefore, it’s reasonable to believe that given a snack option that fills a need for nourishment, many consumers will pick an option that is both convenient and nutritious.
Other reasons for snacking are purely emotional. Some 64% of global respondents eat snacks to improve their mood, 53% as a reward and 44% because they are stressed. Only 38% consume snacks often or sometimes to manage their weight.
Taste and health attributes matter
When reaching for a snack, how much do you think about the ingredients inside? It turns out that more respondents around the world care about the absence of ingredients than the addition of them. “Consumers want snacks to stick to the basics,” said Dunn.
In Southeast Asia, the absence of artificial colours rate as the most important health attribute for Indonesians (56%), Malaysians (49%) and Thais (45%), while all natural ingredients is the priority for Vietnamese consumers (60%), low salt and no artificial colours top the list for Singaporeans (34%) and Filipinos look for beneficial ingredients, rating fibre as the most important attribute in the snacks they eat (63%).
To fulfil a craving and heighten the snacking moment for Southeast Asian consumers, fresh, crunchy and indulgent snacks resonate as the most important taste/texture attribute in the snacks they eat. Filipino respondents place the highest level of importance on freshness (75%), followed by Vietnamese (62%), Malaysians (54%), Indonesians (52%), Singaporeans (48%), and Thais (40%). Flavour is also an important taste/texture attribute for the majority of consumers in the region.
Fresh fruit is top pick
Consumers in Southeast Asia prefer fresh snacks which offer health and nutrition benefits, but they’re also looking for an occasional treat. In the past 30 days, Southeast Asian respondents ate a wide variety of snacks, including fresh fruit, chocolate, bread/sandwich, yogurt and fried banana.
On the whole, consumers in the region are relatively healthy snackers, with fresh fruits topping the list of most popular snacks. Vietnamese (30%), Indonesians (26%) and Thais (23%) say that fresh fruit is their snack of choice, compared to 18% of consumers globally, while Filipinos (31%), Singaporeans (20%), and Malaysians (17%) rank bread/sandwich as their preferred snack followed by fresh fruit.
Taste preferences for snack options are noticeably different around the world. Besides fresh fruit and chocolate, large percentages of respondents also snack on vegetables in Asia-Pacific (57%), cheese in Europe (58%), bread/sandwiches in the Middle East/Africa (47%), ice cream/gelato in Latin America (63%) and potato chips/tortilla chips in North America (63%).
“In the dichotomy of snacking, consumers want healthy, but yet indulgent options are still going strong,” said Dunn. “A better understanding of consumer demand and the need states that drive demographic profile preferences will help manufacturers crack the code on the right portfolio balance between indulgence and healthy. It will also increase the odds of success in this ultra-competitive landscape.”
Snacking differences between the sexes is also prevalent. Globally, women drive snacking consumption more than men. More women consume chocolate (68% women vs. 61% men), fresh fruit (68% vs. 57%), vegetables (56% vs. 49%), cookies/biscuits (55% vs. 48%), bread/sandwiches (51% vs. 49%), yogurt (57% vs. 44%), cheese (51% vs. 41%), potato chips/tortilla chips (45% vs. 42%), nuts/seeds (44% vs. 39%) and gum (34% vs. 32%).