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US Snacking in Foodservice market report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Snacking in Foodservice market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Covered in this report

The purpose of this report is to analyze consumer behaviors and attitudes towards MTO (made-to-order) snacks in foodservice that includes both traditional restaurants and specialty snack shops. Snacking frequency and habits from a retail perspective will also be discussed and highlighted.

Mintel has used the following restaurant definitions:

QSRs (quick-service restaurants) – Used interchangeably with “fast food,” QSRs specialize in inexpensive, convenient meals that are less expensive than those available at fast casuals. There is typically no waiter service and no alcoholic beverages. Examples include: McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, and Pizza Hut.

Fast casual restaurants – These establishments are characterized by a higher price point than QSRs, though not as high as full-service restaurants, and emphasize customization. Fast casuals may or may not offer limited table service or alcohol. Examples include: Chipotle, Panera Bread and Shake Shack.

LSRs (limited-service restaurants) – These establishments provide foodservices where customers usually select and order items and pay before dining. Food/drink may be consumed on the premises, offered as carryout, or delivered to the customer’s location. These may also sell alcoholic beverages. LSRs include both QSRs and fast casual restaurants.

FSRs (full-service restaurants) – These establishments have waiter/waitress service in which customers order and are served while seated. These may also sell alcoholic beverages and offer carryout services and include the restaurant segments: midscale, casual dining, and fine dining.

Convenience stores (C-stores) – Convenience stores are establishments that retail a limited line of goods, primarily groceries and ready-to-consume beverages and snacks, in easily accessible locations. The majority of convenience stores also sell gasoline.

Frequent Snacker – An individual who purchases MTO snacks four or more times a week (See Foodservice Snacking Frequency).

Infrequent Snacker– An individual who purchases MTO snacks once a week.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Hannah Spencer, a leading analyst in the Foodservice sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Americans love to snack, with increased usage being driven consumers’ busy schedules, interest in health, and eating on-the-go. This represents a robust opportunity for operators to cater to this eating occasion by offering craveable, affordable, and portable options. LSR (limited-service restaurant) operators are in an excellent position to capitalize on consumer interest in better-for-you options that have functional benefits and are meal replacements. FSR (full-service restaurant) operators should capitalize on interest in bar menus/specials and shareable items to boost incremental sales outside of traditional mealtimes. Hannah Spencer
Foodservice Analyst

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
      • Executive Summary

        • Overview
          • The issues
            • MTO remains a low proportion of consumers’ overall snacks
              • Figure 1: Total snacking frequency, January 2015 and November 2018
            • Consumers visiting retailers more often for MTO snacks
              • Figure 2: Foodservice snacking purchase location in last three months, March 2017 and November 2018
            • The opportunities
              • MTO snack purchasing is up
                • Figure 3: MTO snack consumption over the past three months, March 2017 and November 2018
              • iGens love MTO snacks
                • Figure 4: Foodservice snacking purchase location in last three months, by generation, November 2018
              • Filling and healthy MTO snacks appeal to consumers
                • Figure 5: Desired snacking attributes by daypart – Net: Any occasion, November 2018
              • What it means
              • The Market – What You Need to Know

                • Snacking frequency continues to rise
                  • Consumers have more options for MTO snacks than ever before
                    • Generational shares are shifting
                    • Market Perspective

                      • Convenience stores focus on freshness
                        • Figure 6: Total US sales and fan chart of c-store foodservice sales, at current prices, 2012-22
                      • Supermarkets invest in foodservice snack options
                      • Market Factors

                        • Americans are snacking more often
                          • Figure 7: Total snacking frequency, January 2015 and November 2018
                        • iGens become increasingly important snackers for operators
                          • Figure 8: Population, by generation, 2013-23
                      • Key Players – What You Need to Know

                        • QSRs and casual dining restaurants roll out snack menus
                          • Snack shops adapt to the decline of the mall food court
                            • Fast casuals launch happy hour menus
                            • What’s Working?

                              • QSR chains add snack options to menus
                                • Casual dining restaurant menus innovate with small plates
                                • What’s Struggling?

                                  • Mall closings put snack shops at risk
                                  • What’s Next?

                                    • Fast casuals become happy hour destinations
                                    • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                      • MTO snacking is increasing, but remains a low proportion of consumers’ overall snack consumption
                                        • Consumers visit a variety of locations for MTO snacks
                                          • Parents are important MTO snack customers
                                            • Healthy means different things across generations of snackers
                                            • Foodservice Snacking Purchase Locations

                                              • Fast food restaurants remain most visited for snacking occasions
                                                  • Figure 9: Foodservice snacking purchase location in last three months, March 2017 and November 2018
                                                • iGens love MTO snacks
                                                  • Figure 10: Foodservice snacking purchase location in last three months, by generation – Nets, November 2018
                                                  • Figure 11: LSR foodservice snacking purchase location in last three months, by generation, November 2018
                                                  • Figure 12: Retail foodservice snacking purchase location in last three months, by generation, November 2018
                                                • Parents are top foodservice snackers
                                                  • Figure 13: Foodservice snacking purchase location in last three months, by parental status, November 2018
                                                  • Figure 14: Famous Dave's of America’s email “Sunday Funday with All Day Happy Hour!”
                                                  • Figure 15: LSR foodservice snacking purchase location in last three months, by parental status, November 2018
                                              • Foodservice Snacking Frequency

                                                • MTO remains a low proportion of consumers’ overall snacks
                                                  • Figure 16: Foodservice snacking frequency, November 2018
                                                • Dads are frequent purchasers of MTO snacks
                                                  • Figure 17: Foodservice snacking frequency, by parental status, November 2018
                                              • Snacking Attributes by Occasion

                                                • Foodservice snackers are doing so more often throughout the day
                                                  • Figure 18: Snacking occasions – Net: Any snacking and foodservice snacking, November 2018
                                                  • Figure 19: Desired snacking attributes by daypart – Net: Any occasion, November 2018
                                                  • Figure 20: Restaurant behaviors, by generation, October 2018
                                                • Foodservice snackers seek different attributes throughout the day
                                                  • Figure 21: Correspondence analysis – Snack attributes by occasion, November 2018
                                                  • Figure 22: Snack attributes, by occasion, November 2018
                                                  • Figure 23: Starbucks August 2018 Happy Hour promotion
                                                  • Figure 24: Domino's: Your Late Night Snack Buddy
                                              • Foodservice Snack Motivators

                                                • Foodservice snackers see snacking as a way to relax
                                                  • Figure 25: Snack motivators – Net: Any snacking and any foodservice snacking, November 2018
                                                  • Figure 26: Chick-fil-A email, “Enjoy a Midweek Snack TODAY Only!”
                                                • Frequent snackers are more motivated by health
                                                  • Figure 27: Snack motivators, by net – Frequent and infrequent foodservice snackers, November 2018
                                                  • Figure 28: Sweetgreen email, “Snack Game Strong”
                                              • Foodservice Snacking Behaviors

                                                • Four in 10 consumers typically purchase a beverage with their snack
                                                  • Figure 29: Foodservice snacking behavior statement agreement, November 2018
                                                • Half of frequent snackers do so in transit
                                                  • Figure 30: Foodservice snacking behavior statement agreement, by frequent versus infrequent snackers, November 2018
                                                • Household income plays a key role in snack habits
                                                  • Figure 31: Foodservice snacking behavior statement agreement, by household income, November 2018
                                              • Healthy Snack Attributes

                                                • High-protein snacks are of interest to health-conscious consumers
                                                  • Figure 32: Healthy snack attributes – Net: Any rank, November 2018
                                                • Baby Boomers want high-fiber and low-fat snacks
                                                  • Figure 33: Healthy snack attributes – Net: Any rank, by generation, November 2018
                                              • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                • Data sources
                                                  • Consumer survey data
                                                    • Consumer qualitative research
                                                      • Abbreviations and terms
                                                        • Abbreviations
                                                        • Appendix – The Consumer

                                                          • Correspondence Analysis Methodology