Every year, the IFIC Foundation commissions the Food and Health Survey to better understand the public’s perceptions, beliefs and behaviors around food and food-purchasing decisions. This year, the survey continues its examination of issues related to health and diet, food components, food production and food safety.
There are a few new topics in particular that are trending—like snacking. Snacking has become more common through the decades, but why? What is driving consumer snacking habits, motives and frequency? Let’s check out what we found!
According to our research, almost everyone (97% of survey respondents) snacks at some point during the week. Close to one-third (31%) of respondents reported snacking a few days a week, while 33% reported snacking once per day and nearly one-quarter (24%) reported snacking multiple times per day. Only 3% of survey-takers said they never snack.
Because snacking has become so ubiquitous, we wanted to dig further to assess why people snack. Motives to choose from were plentiful; options included “I am hungry or thirsty,” “I crave sweet snacks,” “I crave salty snacks,” “Out of boredom,” “I need energy,” and “It is too long until my next meal”—to name a few. The combination of hunger and thirst was the top reported driver for snacking. Craving something sweet or salty were the second and third most popular responses, respectively.
We also compared the difference in motives between frequent and infrequent snackers. While the hunger-and-thirst reason was the top driver for all snackers, infrequent snackers (those who reported snacking once a week or less) reported snacking out of hunger or thirst more often than those who snack multiple times per week, once per day or multiple times a day. Those who snack multiple times a day were more likely to snack because they were craving something sweet or out of habit.
These findings are particularly insightful as we try to understand how eating habits are changing in our ever-evolving food environment and culture. If you’re interested in more, we’ve debunked a few myths about whether snacking leads to weight gain and whether snacks can be purposeful or just plain unnecessary. Additionally, here are a couple of our latest resources on how to mindfully snack and how to make the most of eating between meals. Lastly, check out this podcast with Julie Hess, Ph.D., in which she discusses the complexities of defining a snack, snack timing and more.