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Snack Trends Research Reveals What Consumers are Nibbling On

Snack Trends

Leaders in the snack industry want to understand snack trends. What are consumers doing? How are their preferences changing? What are they nibbling on?

The answers can be found in our Snack50 report

The Snack50 report uses a quantitative sample of the U.S. general population. The Psych Pulse database statistical norms back it and benchmarks to discover key insights in the snack industry.

It covers the top 50 brands across various subcategories, providing information on the snack trends driving consumers’ behavior and what’s on the horizon. 

The report aims to answer questions like:

  • Where is purchase behavior headed? 
  • WHY consumers are approaching or avoiding categories and brands.
  • What’s driving and hindering marketing programs?
  • How can brands drive interest and trigger purchase action in the real world?

The report explores the psychology behind snack trends, helping brands understand why people gravitate toward specific products and what compels them to make that all-important purchase.

Download a preview and get a personal walkthrough Snack50 Report.

The Rise of Store Brands

The research finds significant changes in the snacking industry. For example, the surge of store brands in the top rankings. 

Six of the top ten snack brands are private labels, which is a significant shift from previous years. 

And that snack trend isn’t solely driven by price considerations. In the past, snack leaders thought that the decision to purchase a private label over a national brand was mainly due to price.

However, the Snack50 report indicates that consumers actively explore and experiment with store brands. They seek new experiences and indulgences that align with their changing moods and desires. 

And private brands are giving them these experiences. 

For example, Target’s “Favorite Day” brand doesn’t just sell knockoff versions of national brand snacks. They have created their own unique snacking products that consumers are curious about. 

They’re crafting experiences designed to tap into consumers’ desires for exploration and family bonding.

The Emotional Drivers Behind Snacking

The core driver of snacking decisions is a combination of emotions and psychological factors. 

The report identifies four key drivers that influence consumer behavior: impulse (what feels good now), experience (new sensory discoveries), conformity (social belonging and bonding), and function (rational, comparative factors).

While impulse matters in purchase decisions, the snacking experience and desire for conformity are becoming more important to buyers.

Consumers crave new sensory discoveries and seek snacks that foster social bonding and cultural belonging.

This snack trend presents both challenges and opportunities for brands. Anticipating and catering to these trends sets up brands to capture the attention (and wallets) of consumers. 

Innovative flavors, textures, and cultural connections will increasingly drive interest and action.

Read More: Consumer Behavior Trends – Tracking Shifts for Accurate Marketing Predictors

Balancing Interest and Action 

The Snack50 report explores the relationship between consumer interest and actual purchasing behavior, or “action.” The report uses the Interest vs. Action Matrix framework to understand this dynamic.

On the vertical axis lies interest – the emotional bandwidth and attention consumers dedicate to a particular brand or product. High interest indicates exploration, curiosity, and a willingness to consider new options. 

On the horizontal axis is action, which measures how consumers actively purchase and consume a given snack.

Brands that generate high interest often struggle to convert that excitement into sustained action. Conversely, many established brands enjoy consistent sales (high action) but may lose their ability to captivate and excite consumers (low interest).

Snack Trends Interest vs. Action Matrix

The Elusive “Promised Land” of Snacking

The ultimate goal for snack brands is to occupy the coveted “Promised Land” quadrant, where high interest intersects with high action. This space represents the height of snacking success. These brands hold consumer interest while driving consistent sales and repeat purchases.

Occupying this quadrant isn’t easy; it requires balancing innovation, emotional resonance, and sustained relevance. 

Brands like Reese’s and Lay’s have achieved this status, but even for these industry titans, maintaining their position requires constant reinvention and adaptation.

The Exploration Zone: Where Store Brands Thrive

Store brands are becoming more prevalent in the “Exploration” quadrant – high interest, low action. 

Brands like Aldi’s “Simply Nature,” Amazon’s “Aplenty,” and Target’s “Favorite Day” generate significant consumer interest and curiosity but have yet to translate that excitement into routinized purchasing behavior.

This exploration phase represents both an opportunity and a challenge for store brands. On one hand, they have captured the attention of consumers seeking new experiences and indulgences. 

However, sustaining and converting that interest into long-term loyalty will require work.

Avoiding the “No Man’s Land” of Snacking

Brands occupying the “No Man’s Land” are in the low-interest, low-action quadrant. Brands in this territory risk becoming irrelevant and overlooked because consumers don’t feel compelled to explore or routinely purchase them.

Snack brands operating in this space need bold action and a willingness to disrupt the status quo. 

These brands must find ways to reignite consumer interest and recapture their attention in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

By leveraging the Interest vs. Action Matrix, snack brands can better understand where they land on the axis and develop strategies to navigate consumer preferences and behaviors.

Have a question about the matrix? Ask it here.

Future Snack Trends: Embrace Change, Cultivate Connections

Is all lost for national label brands? Not quite. 

National brands still have the opportunity to dominate the marketplace snack trends and secure both consumer interest and action. The first step is to have a good understanding of the data on snack trends.

Without solid research behind decisions, businesses can miss out on important consumer motivations. And one thing that the Snack50 report made clear is that these snack trends are rapidly changing. 

Now is the time for national brands to prioritize understanding the psychology behind snack trends and craft data-based strategies that resonate with modern consumers.