Millennials are the shining stars of marketplace but when it comes to snacking—which is all the rage in the food industry—it’s boomers who shine, finds The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Boomers eat ready-to-eat snack food 20 percent more often than Millennials do, according to NPD’s daily tracking of U.S. consumers snacking habits.
While Millennials overtook boomers in population number in 2015, both generational groups are large and it’s the size of the prize that appeals to snack manufacturers. In terms of snack eating, the size of the prize is substantial. Based on NPD’s snacking research, annual eatings of ready-to-eat snacks per boomer are about 1200, or a total of 90.4 billion snacks, and there are about 1,000 snack occasions for each Millennial or a total of 83.1 billion snacks.
The reasons why each of these generational groups snack are as different as their ages. Millennials reach for what is often a grab-and-go snack because they’re hungry. Boomers snack because they don’t want to prepare a big meal and eat alone more often than other age groups. Both groups choose snacks based on taste and craving.
Millennials are aligned when it comes to the types of ready-to-eat snack foods consumed. Fruit, chocolate candy/candy bars, and potato chips rank as the top three snack picks for both. Boomers and Millennials take different paths after the top three with boomers reaching for nuts and yogurt and Millennials for the tortilla chips and cookies.
Although boomers hold the top score over Millennials in ready-to-eat snack food occasions, they don’t come close to kids when it comes to the amount of snack foods consumed. Kids, ages 2–17, consume an average of 1,500 snack foods per year, an above-average amount compared to other age groups. Healthier snack foods rank highest with kids, particularly with kids 2–5, ages where parents primarily control what they’re eating. Sweet and savory snacks start to creep up in rank with older kids.
“Our snacking research shows us that all snackers are not alike. Motivations, snack food choice, and when and where to snack differs among age groups,” says Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst and author of the company’s Snacking in America study. “Everyone gets it that as a nation we like snack foods but the key for food manufacturers is to find the nuances in snacking behaviors in order to differentiate a brand or find a white space opportunity.”