Canadian Snacking Nation 2016

Tremendous growth in snacking has resulted in Canadians' re-shaping how they define their in-between meal eating behaviour. The long-held belief that a snack was solely a treat-oriented, in the moment, indulgence has evolved into a snacking mindset anchored in mindful and healthy eating.

More than two-thirds (67%) of all consumption occasions occur outside of traditional meals, as snacks. As consumers frequently engage in snacking behaviour, there is a growing necessity to understand with increased specificity and by occasion what the individual consumer of today demands from his or her snacks, particularly since snacking is such a solo and personal behaviour.

Ipsos' recent launch of the FIVE Canadian Snacking Nation 2016 report represents an extensive investigation of Canadians' shifting snacking patterns over the past three years together with in-depth analysis of needs, situational dynamics and health statuses that drive the decision around snacking choice.

Part of the enormous shift to snacking is linked to an increasingly positive view of in-between meal eating. Though the majority of Canadians continue to adhere to some form of `three square meals' a day, a growing number of us, spearheaded by Millennials, are choosing snacking or mini-meal consumption as we adapt to varying personal dietary needs and preferences, hectic schedules and lifestyles in which the traditional daily mealtime ritual and structure is increasingly difficult to sustain.

Indexed to Total Life Stages
% of Individuals R12M ending March 2016Young FamiliesMaturing FamiliesYoung Adults No KidsOlder Adults No KidsEmpty NestersMulti-Generational
Regime of 3 Traditional Meals/Seldom Snack931019198120103
Regime of 5-6 Smaller Meals1039313211764108
Regime of 3 Traditional Meals/Snack Often11010397978790

Expanding needs, priorities and emotions driving choice at snack are further differentiated by analyzing snacking moments throughout the day. Four in ten (41%) snack occasions occur in the afternoon, the largest snacking daypart. Year over year growth in afternoon snacking behaviour is being driven by increased Snacking at Home (+2%) and Snacking on the Go (+2%), which includes occasions in the car, walking and in-transit.

At afternoon moments, factors like clock time, location, weekday, who I am with or what I am doing all shape motivations driving snacking choice during this occasion.

More than three-quarters (77%) of afternoon snack occasions include a beverage, while just under half (42%) include a traditional snack food such as chocolate, fruit or potato chips.

Fastest Growing Traditional Snacks at Afternoon SnackFastest Growing Beverages at Afternoon Snack
CheeseTap Water
Snack BeveragesTea
Fresh Cut VegetablesFruit Juice
Dips/Spreads/SalsaFlavoured Sparkling Water

When snacking was less prevalent, it was often defined by a static universe of pre-defined foods. Today, snacking is not about the consumption of types of foods and beverages at a specific time of day, it is more about satisfying an occasion or need. Within all snacking occasions, one in five (21%) includes a non-traditional snack food, for example pizza, sliced bread/toast, sandwiches or even ready-to-eat cereal.

Conversely, as the definition of snack continues to be fuzzy, especially with regards to how consumers define a snack, the inclusion of traditional snack foods as meal replacements or meal accompaniments has also increased, +3% since 2014. Today, more than a third (36%) of traditional snack foods are consumed as meal replacements or accompaniments. What one might define as `occasion-agnostic' foods such as Fruit, Cheese, Yogurt, and Dips/Spreads/Salsa get the nod as top meal replacement or accompaniment items.

The result of this disruptive snacking behaviour is that the very same food item that functions as breakfast today, could very well be part of lunch the next day, and even act as a treat while watching television the evening following.

Importantly, the fact that your food or beverage product may be a meal component one day and a snack the next is not cause for confusion (or concern), but rather offers exceptional opportunity, especially given that cross-occasion consumer ambiguity both expands and extends the usefulness of a product in everyday consumption.

All totaled, snacking represents a massive marketplace opportunity. In a typical day, the average Canadian snacks five times per day offering up more than 62 billion snacking occasions in Canada annually.

However, there can be no discussion about snacking without giving consideration to the role that health and nutrition play in Canadians' decision-making. Canadians continue to re-define healthy choices, driven by a growing desire to access functional benefits, adhere to dietary restrictions and sensitivities and continue to evaluate item nutrient benefits.

This emerging interpretation of what defines snacking offers another enormous opportunity for marketers, as almost one in three consumers (28%) reports a dietary restriction or sensitivity impacting their snacking decisions, ranging from Gluten or Lactose Intolerance to Halal restrictions, to Nut allergies. There is also a behaviour trend towards the consumption of snack items that have fewer ingredients and are, for example Low Sugar/No Sugar Added, Locally Grown/Sourced, Organic and Vegetarian/Vegan.

We live in an era defined by the specialized needs and wants of the individual consumer. Increasingly, Canadians are prioritizing non-ritualized snacking over meals. As such, the importance and dominance of snacking in the consumption patterns of Canadians has arrived. At the same time though, evolving definitions of snacking continue to provide compelling opportunity for manufacturers and retailers alike to come to the aid of the consumer.

Consumer & Shopper