Photographed by Georgina Martin.
Snacking is big business these days, with global snack-food sales totaling $374 billion annually, according to Nielsen’s recent Global Survey of Snacking. And, when it comes to snacking healthy, it looks like America is a bit behind the rest of the world.
According to the survey, chocolate, fresh fruit, and vegetables are the most popular snacks around the world. But, the top three snacks consumed in the U.S. — in decreasing order of popularity — include chips, chocolate, and cheese. Fruit placed fifth in the U.S., and vegetables eighth. Yep, it's good ol' potato chips that reign supreme in the States.
The online survey polled 30,000 consumers in 60 countries between February and March of this year. And, while the world’s love affair with chocolate is no surprise, it seems that sweet snacks may be on the decline. The survey notes that sales of savory foods (including crackers and pita chips) and meat snacks (like jerky) are on the rise, with the latter growing 15% in North America, perhaps due to the current obsession with all things Paleo.
While chocolate is reported as the most consumed, when participants were asked what one snack they would choose, the top answer was fresh fruit (followed by, you guessed it, chocolate). As Susan Dunn, executive vice president of global professional services for Nielsen, points out in a press release, it's a dichotomy: Consumers want to eat healthy, yet the indulgent options are still the most consumed.
But, looking for healthier options is a growing trend. The polled snackers want less sugar, salt, and fat in their between-meal foods, and they want to see more fiber, protein, and whole grains. Plus, snackers ranked all-natural ingredients as the most important health characteristic. Another diet aspect influencing snack preference is gluten; roughly one-fifth of global participants ranked gluten-free options as very important.
The survey also finds that women consume more snacks than men, and it identified three "types of snackers" that suspiciously sound like "groups to market to" — planners (they eat the snack at home and stick with a few favorites), purposeful (the people who prefer food with sustainably sourced ingredients), and spontaneous (they enjoy snacking alone, and are more adventurous in trying new options). Perhaps the inspiration for our next personality quiz will be the office snack drawer?