As consumer lifestyles continue to become busier, the demand for convenient and cravable snacks grows. However, it seems that snack manufacturers are focusing on the preferences of millennials, who are currently the largest working consumer demographic in the US, rather than looking into other potential markets. According to Information Resource Inc. (IRI), snack manufacturers should also look into marketing to the baby boomer demographic because they represent an untapped opportunity in the snacks market.
“You’ve got 74 million consumers out there that are looking for some new options that will appeal to them,” said Sally Lyons Wyatt, Executive Vice President of Thought Leadership at IRI, during a presentation at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago. “Their taste buds are different. What they like is different. You’ve got to take that into account and find some ways of attracting those consumers back into the category.”
With the snacks market outpacing other consumer packaged goods (CPG) products in terms of dollar sales, this industry is expected to continue to expand in the coming years. According to IRI data, the snacking market grew 3.4 percent over the past year, reaching $42.5 billion. This growth might be due to that fact that consumers are snacking more often – according to Wyatt, consumers are eating over 2.5 snacks a day, on average.
Although younger consumers play a key role in driving the growth in snack product sales, Wyatt believes that older consumers, in particular, baby boomers are an undiscovered market that snack manufacturers should consider investing in. With 74 to 81 million baby boomers in America alone, this demographic has the potential to bring in a lot of revenue for snack manufacturers.
In terms of snacking products, classic snacks such as potato chips, tortilla chips, snack nuts and nutrition bars have been found to be the most popular snacking categories. However, new and unique snacking products such as seaweed, onion, chickpeas or beans have been contributing to the growth in snack sales as well.
“This is where consumers are gravitating,” Wyatt said. “Why? Because it’s exciting. Because they’re getting different snacks and different forms of snacks.”
However, when it comes to targeting specific demographics with snacks, food companies need to identify the taste preferences of each consumer group. Baby boomers seem to be interested in classic and familiar snacks such as popcorn, pork rinds, snack nuts and sunflower seeds. This trend may be because baby boomers prefer snacks that were available during their youth. In contrast, slightly younger generations such as Gen X consumers (born between 1946 and 1964) have been found to purchase fruit snacks, granola bars, tortilla chips and other salted snacks.
This information suggests that older consumers are interested in classic and familiar snack products rather than the new and niche healthy snacks that have been introduced in the past few years. Baby boomers have also been found to purchase fewer snack products than Gen X consumers, which means that snack manufacturers need to develop tailored snacks for baby boomers rather than a large variety of snacking options to choose from. This actually makes it easier for snack companies because they might only need to come out with one or two targeted snacking products for baby boomers as long as these new products incorporate classic snacking items. In addition, IRI has found that baby boomers seek out snacks that have low or no saturated fats, reduced sodium and are highly likely to select products with protein, antioxidants, reduced sugar and little to no caffeine.
By incorporating these values into a classic treat, snack companies will be able to get a hand in the baby boomer demographic and in turn, increase their revenue.
“Functional and holistic health attributes are really appealing across the generations,” Wyatt said. “As you look across your portfolio, are you having different types of products that are going to appeal to the different generations from a confections standpoint?”