Friday, July 9, 2021

Preparing for Post-Pandemic Snacking


Photo source: U.S. Dairy Export Council

About a year ago many of us fell into the new norm of life. We swapped out our pre-pandemic forms of control for new habits, ones that continue today. And while offices are reopening, business traveling is starting up again and in-person meetings are becoming more frequent, our new “controlled” habits are likely going to remain. 

This morning I woke up to a Forbes article titled “How Covid Affected Employee Perks and What They Will Look Like Post-Pandemic.” The basis of the piece is how businesses are substituting pre-pandemic employee perks, such as free in-office lunches and stocked refrigerators, for subscriptions to mental health apps and working from home stipends. Flexibility, once a selling point, is now the norm.

The fact is that some things have changed, and that includes where and when we work, learn, exercise and play. Snack-filled pantries at offices are empty, but we are still snacking. 

You can read the Forbes article HERE

While the number of times consumers snack throughout the day has remained steady since the onset of the pandemic, the overall volume has grown, according to an October 2020 survey by The Hartman Group. Further, 35% of consumers said they were snacking more often and 20% have changed how they snack from the previous year.   

Snacking provides a form of routine, of comfort, of control. And right now as we reenter society, most of us are not willing to give up any of these things. 

“The culture of snacking in the U.S. is one that is constantly evolving and shifting according to broader shifts in American consumer values, demographics and priorities,” according to The Hartman Group’s Snacking 2020: Emerging, Evolving and Disrupted report. “The pandemic altered consumers’ snacking needs and routines and has unleashed yet another new era of retail and foodservice disruption.”

The Hartman Group just published these amazingly insightful infographics, which I have been permitted to share with you. They show how consumer participation in meal and snack occasions follows an established pattern, but within this general pattern, individual consumer approaches to snacks and meals reflect diverse daily schedules. 

As a Gen Xer, I fit this this pattern down to a tee. It was definitely different before the pandemic, but I am quite comfortable with the routine I have fallen into and not ready for change. The only thing my infographic is missing is the cup of black coffee with a scoop of collagen that I have every morning, usually before 6:00am. 

Note how these infographics highlight many dairy and dairy-type foods, including cheese, dip, ice cream, protein shake and yogurt. Note how what constitutes a snack or meal is less specific with younger consumers, while older ones are more set in their ways. This provides more opportunity to lure Gen Z into the refrigerated and frozen retail cases with real dairy and non-dairy formats, while products targeted to the needs of older, more affluent consumers are also a great bet. As you formulate and market for back-to-school and back-to-work schedules, consider including functional ingredients in products targeted to specific demographics for certain day parts. 

Liz Sloan wrote “Demographic Disruption” for this month’s issue of Food Technology. “Unmet needs of older consumers, a new generation of cooks and high-end tastes among lower-income shoppers are spawning a wealth of new food and beverage opportunities,” she wrote. “COVID-19 is not the only disruptor of the U.S. food and beverage marketplace. Major demographic transitions related to birth rate, a dramatic bifurcation of older/younger consumers, unprecedented growth in minority populations and the increasing impact of urban shoppers are reshaping it as well.

“While food marketers appear to be disproportionately focused on developing ‘experiential’ products for young adults, they are ignoring one of the most dramatic opportunities of all time: the emerging food and nutrition needs of one of the largest and wealthiest populations in the world—aging baby boomers,” Sloan wrote. “The U.S. population included 120 million Americans over 50 years old in 2020.”

I would add aging Gen X to her quote. We are currently about 41 to 56 years old. 

Vital Proteins recently signed Jennifer Aniston on as Chief Creative Officer. Aniston is one of the only spokespersons to Gen X. My demographic has long felt ignored and overlooked. Aniston is telling me now to add collagen to my morning coffee, and I do it daily. What can you tell me about your snack food to make me a customer?

You can read the entire Food Technology article HERE.

I hope these articles and infographics guide you in your product development efforts for the new snacking norm. Dairy deliciousness—in real dairy and non-dairy products—has always been a craveable trait. Never sacrifice on flavor, as taste reigns. That’s one attribute no demographic is willing to forego.

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