Home » Pandemic Has Us ‘Snacking For Fun’ Instead Of On-The-Go 

Pandemic Has Us ‘Snacking For Fun’ Instead Of On-The-Go 


Variety packs, larger sizes popular as families shelter

by Mary Margaret Stewart, staff writer

As people across the country were under shelter-in-place orders, many turned to snacking for comfort. 

A survey conducted in May by California Walnuts and Kelton Global explored the snacking behaviors of Americans and how they’ve changed since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

And comfort was the first priority. Seventy-five percent of respondents reported they weren’t trying to eat healthier snacks, and 33 percent said they’ve found comfort in their favorite snacks since mid-March.

David Walsh

David Walsh, VP of membership and communications with SNAC International, echoed this trend, saying that consumers are “snacking for fun.”

“So consumers – while they’re not maybe on-the-go as much because their quarantining at home…they’re still snacking a lot,” Walsh said. “And it’s probably being driven a little bit more by gravitation towards comfort food.”

According to Frito-Lay Snack Index survey data, eight in 10 say the top deciding factors when buying snacks are convenience and staying true to favorites.

“Consumers want their snacks at home,” Walsh said. “And they’re doing it as more of entertainment instead of on-the-go sustenance.”

SNAC International is the leading international trade association of the global snack industry. It’s made up of about 400 member companies worldwide, including manufacturers, marketers, producers and a wide range of suppliers to the industry.

SNAC works to bring members together to learn about trends, the future of the industry, consumer preferences and education about regulations.

As Walsh noted, consumers were drawn to more portable snacks with smaller serving sizes prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. He said that this push has been driven by younger generations.

“Millennials kind of started this snack trend, and it’s being carried through now by Gen Z, which has just led to an even stronger snack industry,” he said. “As those generations become more mature and increase their buying power, it’s led to some more snack growth.”

snackingSo while the pandemic has affected packaging, people remain committed to snacking. Instead of a drop-off, Frito-Lay says the snack industry has seen more purchases of larger package sizes and variety packs.

In consumer efforts to limit trips to the store, Frito-Lay reported an increase in take-home size bags, as well as more e-commerce snack sales. According to the company, snacks are the No. 2 food contributor to sales growth at retail. Online snack sales are up 75 percent when comparing the months (prior to March 1) leading up to the pandemic through present.

In a statement, the company said: “In these uncertain times, as more and more consumers are using e-commerce channels to purchase food and beverage products, we recently launched Snacks.com, offering consumers another way to purchase the Frito-Lay products they love. Since its launch in May, we’ve nearly doubled the number of SKUs available, to offer consumers more variety.”

Yet, the pandemic not only affected snacking habits but what snack companies could feasibly produce.

According to Frito-Lay, the company began streamlining its portfolio in early March when demand spiked to unprecedented levels. 

“To keep products in stock at the pace they were selling and to get more product to market faster, we reduced assortment of our core brands to deliver the volume of our most in-demand products, ensuring availability everywhere for consumers,” it explained.

“Ninety-five percent of our paused items have returned to the portfolio in recent weeks and flavors are continuing to be added back.”

And to keep meeting pandemic snacking demands, several popular brands have released new products.

snacking Pringles BaconatorPringles, a Kellogg company, joined with Wendy’s to debut Baconator chips in June. Each can comes with a code on the seal that can be used to claim a free Wendy’s Baconator, Son of Baconator or Breakfast Baconator.

Plano, Texas-based Lay’s recently launched Lay’s Flavor Icons at retailers nationwide, recreating the taste of iconic restaurant dishes in potato chip form.

The new chips and the restaurants that inspired them include: Lay’s Kettle Cooked New York Style Pizza from Grimaldi’s Pizzeria in New York City; Lay’s Nashville Hot Chicken by Party Fowl in Nashville, Tennessee; and Lay’s Philly Cheesesteak of Geno’s Steaks in Philadelphia.

Other flavors include: Lay’s Wavy Carnitas Street Taco by El Torito in Los Angeles; and Lay’s Chile Relleno from Cocina Azul in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

To “return the flavor” and acknowledge the pandemic’s economic impact, Lay’s has enacted a $25,000 Gratitude Fund for each restaurant as a thank you for their inspiration in the kitchen and ongoing support of their local communities.

As for health-conscious snacking, Simply 7 Snacks just launched two new products – Sea Salt Veggie Straws and Fiery Pepper Lentil Chips. Both snacks are Non-GMO Project-Verified, gluten free, kosher and vegetarian.

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