Worldwide snack sales totaled $374 billion in the year ending March 2014, and the variety of snacks we see on the shelf prove that no two taste buds are exactly the same. But beyond the flavors and textures we crave, when reaching for a snack, how much do we think about the ingredients inside? Are attributes such as artificial coloring, natural flavors and high fructose corn syrup important criteria in the decision-making process? What about snacks that contain whole grain, protein and fiber?
According to Nielsen’s recent Global Survey of Snacking, it turns out that more respondents around the world care about the absence of ingredients than the addition of them. “Consumers want snacks to stick to the basics,” said Susan Dunn, executive vice president, Global Professional Services, Nielsen.
Snacks with all natural ingredients are rated very important by 45% of global respondents and moderately important by 32%—the highest percentages out of the 20 health attributes included in the study. The absence of artificial colors (44%), genetically modified organisms (43%) and artificial flavors (42%) are also rated very important when it comes to the snacks we eat. Caffeine-free (23%) and gluten-free (19%) snacks are very important for about one-fourth and one-fifth of global respondents, respectively.
Less is more for roughly one-third of global respondents who think it’s very important that snacks be low in sugar (34%), salt (34%), fat (32%) and calories (30%). One-fourth of those surveyed want snacks that have either low or no carbohydrates. Conversely, roughly one-third are looking for beneficial ingredients, rating fiber (37%), protein (31%) and whole grains (29%) as very important attributes in the snacks they eat. Meanwhile, a literal less-is-more approach—portion control—is very important for just over one-fourth of global respondents (27%).
Environmentally conscious consumers snack with their heart, and believe it is very important that the treats they pick include ingredients that are sourced sustainably (35%), are organic (34%) and use local herbs (25%).
The report also discusses:
For more detail and insight, download Nielsen’s Global Survey of Snacking.
The findings in this survey are based on respondents with online access across 60 countries. While an online survey methodology allows for tremendous scale and global reach, it provides a perspective only on the habits of existing Internet users, not total populations. In developing markets where online penetration has not reached majority potential, audiences may be younger and more affluent than the general population of that country. Additionally, survey responses are based on claimed behavior, rather than actual metered data.