Snacks play a more significant role in today’s society than one might realize because snacks are more than just a little bite between meals. Throughout human history, the content and frequency of meals have always varied. From ancient times, people consumed leftovers and light foods between meals, and those were often sweet and natural foods that required little or no preparation (such as fruit). However, in the 19th century United States, the interest in snack foods changed. People went from consuming natural foods to prepared commercial snacks with high sugar and salt content. Today, in the early 21st century, it is these processed foods that are considered snacks. And thanks to the evolution of the snack food industry, our snacking options have greatly changed. Let’s take a look at the evolution of the snack food industry and what drove significant changes in snacks over the years.

America and Snacks – From the 1900s to Today

Even though it may be hard to believe, classic snacks like dried fruits, nuts, and chocolate bars were once innovative products. Let’s go back through time and take a look at more than 100 years of America’s greatest snacking moments.

  • The 1900s – Back in 1904, new types of foods and beverages were introduced at the St. Louis World’s Fair – cotton candy, hamburgers, hot dogs, and waffle cones for ice cream. In 1905, Lombardi’s opened as the first licensed pizzeria in America.
  • The 1910s – In 1912, America first encountered Oreo – the world’s most iconic sandwich cookie. During this decade, Pep-O-mint candies appeared, while the Tasty Baking Company began to sell Tastykakes, the individually wrapped chocolate that revolutionized on-the-go snacking.
  • The 1920s – Snacking began to flourish during the Jazz Age, when legendary sweet snacks, such as Nestle Drumsticks, Butterfinger, Mike and Ike, Heath Bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Mr. Goodbar, and Oh Henry! appeared on the market.
  • The 1930s – Lay’s Potato Chips, Frito corn chips, Snickers, Twinkies, and Ritz Crackers were all introduced during the Great Depression. At the same time, the Girl Scouts’ cookie fundraisers became so popular that they had to outsource the cookie production to commercial bakers.
  • The 1940s – What had the biggest impact on the snacking industry and trends of this decade was the U.S. involvement in WWII. Popular and practical additions to soldier’s ration kits were Tootsie Rolls, M&Ms, and other heat-resistant chocolates. After the war, new products began to appear on the market, such as Smarties, Junior Mints, Almond Joys, and Cheetos.
  • The 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s – After WWII, the economy began to thrive, and Americans have seen the rise of fast-food franchises that took over the world within a few decades. But besides the hamburger, pizza, nachos, and tacos, there were snacks such as Pringles, Doritos, Apple Jacks, Funyuns, Lucky Charms, and Pop-Tarts. During the 1970s, women began entering the workforce, which is why more emphasis was put on pre-cooked foods packaged in oversized food jars. And there were also some other great snacks, such as Reese’s Pieces, Twix, Pop Rocks, and instant ramen.
  • The 1980s and 1990s – We have to thank the 80s and 90s for Teddy Grahams, Handi-Snacks, Fruit Rollups, Ranch Doritos, Airheads, SnackWells Devil’s Food Cookies, Bagel Bites, and many more.
  • The 21st century – In the last 20 years, snackers enjoyed a wider selection of snack foods than ever before. Gross-out candies have become the fastest-growing candy market segment in the U.S. Other more popular snack makers are Hershey’s, Quaker, Smucker’s, Cheerios, Pillsbury, Frito-Lay, and many others.

How Millennials Turned Snacking into a Prevailing Food Trend

While one body of research shows that a staggering 81% of Americans have at least one snack a day, and this rate is about 40% among Millennials, another study indicates that more and more people go to restaurants for snacks than for any other meal. These findings also showed that people tend to replace lunch with snacks, more than any other meal. The most common meal replacement snacks people consume in the afternoon are potato chips, followed by hamburgers and fries. Sweet snacks, like doughnuts, cookies, and sweet rolls, are also among the favorite lunch replacements.

When it comes to morning snacks, people like to nibble on numerous snacks, from sweet rolls and energy bars to sandwiches and savory snacks, like potato chips or pretzels. In the evening, people like to indulge in some ice cream, along with all the already-mentioned treats.

Since this generation is linked up on social media, Millennials also prefer snacks that are simultaneously enjoyable and pleasing to the eye. They like to share their snacking experiences so they are looking for attractive, indulgent, social-media-worthy snack products. While 62% of Millennials stated that snacks added variety to their diet, a great deal of them also claimed that they loved snacking because “it is fun.”

Sally Lyons Wyatt, a seasoned expert in the shopping and consumer industry, offers valuable advice on how the snack food industry may evolve and capitalize on this emerging snack trend. According to her, it is essential for people in the industry to understand this shift’s nature if they want to win “the fair share of stomach.”

Finally, finding the appropriate price for your snack product is the ultimate precondition for winning a share of the snack food market and building and retaining consumers’ trust and loyalty.

What are the Future Market Trends in The Snack Industry?

According to the Specialty Food Association’s research, the top three specialty food categories that account for 48% of total snack sales are savory specialty snacks, like chips and pretzels, with a $4 billion profit in retail sales. Specialty chocolate snacks follow with $2.5 billion and a 14% growth. Specialty yogurt and kefir products are right behind, with $2.2 billion in retail sales and an 8.5% growth. The statistics prove that people now want high-protein and convenient diet options. 

What is driving today’s snack industry is innovating with balanced choices. Namely, innovation has always been a growth engine in the snack industry. Lately, we have found innovations spanning various themes, such as cookie innovations that offer multiple benefits, probiotic bars, and refrigerated snack kits.

If we look back 15 years, we can see that snacking has been a durable growth industry where the trends have all been upward (with limited exceptions). When it comes to the future of the snack industry, there is nothing but opportunity. Snack sales have risen 2-5 times faster than the food industry during the past decade. Since the market has a lower barrier to entry than other food groups, it is attracting various new companies that are scaling up and being acquired.

Cablevey Provides the Right Technology

Major components of today’s popular snack foods are often not that complex, containing little more than sugar, salt, fat, flour, dried fruit, nuts, and other crunchy additives. Cablevey’s tubular cable and disc system is perfectly suitable for conveying these brittle and powdery materials – especially pellets, nuts, and extruded materials – without breakage and in a sanitary way. Moving materials without breakage is especially important in snack food manufacturing, since no consumer would want to buy a bag full of broken crackers or potato chips.

Cablevey can be your partner from the development stage when developing new formulations, creating a product, and testing the market. Cablevey enclosed tubular drag conveyors are custom-designed and can fit into any processing scheme and manufacturing space. Our conveyors can be engineered to service every part of your production process – from mixing to baking/cooking to packaging. We have equipped numerous snack food facilities (from small to large) in dozens of countries worldwide.

Conclusion

Americans’ eating habits have changed significantly over the past ten years. People got hooked on snacking because it is a ready-to-go, convenient, and enjoyable diet that can replace regular meals. For all these reasons, the future of snacking, the snack food industry, and the market size are bright, bringing in $120 billion in profit in the United States annually.