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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 and how fast are its rates of growth? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?


The purpose of this Report is to analyse consumer behaviors and attitudes towards made-to-order snacks in foodservice which includes both traditional restaurants and specialty snack shops. Snacking frequency and habits from a retail perspective will also be discussed and highlighted, but the main focus of this report is from a foodservice perspective.

This report builds off of analysis presented in Snacking in Foodservice – US, June 2016. For more details on snacking in retail please see Snacking Motivations and Attitudes – US, May 2017.

For the purposes of this Report, 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, Shake Shack, and Blaze Pizza.
  • 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. The other category within LSRs (as seen in the market size and forecast) includes snacks and non-alcoholic beverage bars, cafeterias, grills, and grill buffets.
  • 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 motor fuel.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Diana Kelter, 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.

The definition of a snack can vary from person to person and without a clear direction to follow, foodservice operators can position snacking from a variety of angles. With more consumers adopting a snacking mentality, foodservice operators need to determine how they can design a menu that offers flexibility in an evolving landscape. The competitive landscape adds a layer of complexity, with retail placing an increased focus on freshly prepared snacks. Diana Kelter
Foodservice Analyst

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
      • Executive Summary

        • The issues
          • Millennials see less clarity between meals and snacks
            • Figure 1: Snacking attitudes, “It’s hard to distinguish between snack and meal options on a menu,” by generation, March 2017
          • Income can play a role toward healthy snack interest
            • Figure 2: Snack pairings, by household income, March 2017
          • Frozen yogurt loses momentum compared to traditional yogurt
            • Figure 3: Snack pairings, March 2017
          • The opportunities
            • More consumers are snacking throughout the day
              • Figure 4: Snacking frequency, 2015-17, January 2015 and March 2017
            • Women crave a snack break
              • Figure 5: Snack motivators, by gender, March 2017
            • Snack trends emerge in a social media world
              • Figure 6: Snacking attitudes, by generation, March 2017
            • What it means
            • The Market – What You Need to Know

              • Retail builds upon snacking convenience
                • Is that Instagram worthy?
                  • Experience versus convenience
                  • Market Perspective

                    • Retail caters to convenience with a fresh spin
                      • Foodservice snacking is no longer defined by traditional restaurant elements
                      • Market Factors

                        • The Instagram impact can’t be ignored
                          • Figure 7: Instagram usage, at least daily, by generation, March 2017
                        • Social media and snacking behavior
                          • Health claims and the clean label
                            • Figure 8: Health claims, December 2016
                        • Key Trends – What You Need to Know

                          • Food waste gets a new life in snacks
                            • Snacks straight to your door
                              • Everything natural
                              • What’s Working?

                                • Seasonal snacks
                                  • Eco-friendly snacks and beverages from the inside and out
                                    • Detailed flavor descriptions + presentation
                                    • What’s Struggling?

                                      • Defining a snack
                                        • Artificial anything
                                        • What’s Next?

                                          • Grab-and-Go restaurants
                                            • Chef inspired prepared snacks
                                              • Snacks on demand
                                              • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                • Millennials are super snackers
                                                  • The sweet and salty flavor combo is not fading
                                                    • Hispanics demonstrate snacking variety
                                                    • Made-to-order Snack Purchase Locations

                                                      • QSRs lead in snack purchases among foodservice snackers
                                                          • Figure 9: Made-to-order snack purchases in foodservice, March 2017
                                                        • Men purchase snacks from a variety of locations
                                                          • Figure 10: Made-to-order snack purchases in foodservice, by gender, March 2017
                                                        • Bakeries and fast casuals drive increased snacking interest from younger consumers
                                                          • Figure 11: Made-to-order snack purchases in foodservice, by age, March 2017
                                                        • Hispanics demonstrate snacking variety
                                                          • Figure 12: Made-to-order snack purchases in foodservice, by race, Hispanic origin and area, March 2017
                                                      • Snacking Frequency

                                                        • Consumers are snacking more throughout the day
                                                          • Figure 13: Snacking frequency, 2015-17, January 2015 and March 2017
                                                          • Figure 14: Snack attributes by occasion, March 2017
                                                          • Figure 15: Snacking frequency, by made-to-order snack consumers, March 2017
                                                      • Super Snacker Profile

                                                        • Younger consumers are a snacking demographic
                                                          • Figure 16: Super snackers (snack four or more times a day), by age, March 2017
                                                        • Urban environments cater to Millennial snacking trends
                                                          • Figure 17: Super snackers (snack four or more times per day), by urban, suburban and rural Millennials, March 2017
                                                        • Parents are snacking to relieve stress and take a break
                                                          • Figure 18: Super snackers, by parents and nonparents, March 2017
                                                      • Motivators for Consuming Snacks

                                                        • The treat mentality remains strong
                                                          • Figure 19: Snack motivators, March 2017
                                                          • Figure 20: Healthy snack attribute by snacking occasion, March 2017
                                                        • Give me a break…
                                                          • Figure 21: Snack motivators, by gender, March 2017
                                                        • Are Millennials oversaturated with a treat yourself mentality?
                                                          • Figure 22: Snack motivators, by generation and Black and non-Black consumers, March 2017
                                                        • Hispanics are social snackers
                                                          • Figure 23: Snack motivators, “to socialize with friends and family,” by Hispanic origin, March 2017
                                                      • Snack Purchase Motivators

                                                        • Healthy snacks lead in purchase motivation
                                                            • Figure 24: Snack purchase motivators, March 2017
                                                          • Targeting women with health trends
                                                            • Figure 25: Snack purchase motivators, by gender, March 2017
                                                          • Millennials lack a clear motivator for purchasing snacks
                                                            • Figure 26: Snack purchase motivators, by generation, March 2017
                                                            • Figure 27: Snack purchase motivators, by parents and nonparents, March 2017
                                                        • Flavor Opportunities

                                                          • Sweet and salty remain leading flavor profiles
                                                            • Figure 28: Snack flavor preferences, March 2017
                                                          • Smoke and spice flavor profiles appeal to men
                                                            • Figure 29: Snack flavor preferences, by gender, March 2017
                                                          • Hispanics enjoy rich and creamy flavor profiles
                                                            • Figure 30: Snack flavor preferences, by Hispanic origin, March 2017
                                                          • Millennials want health…or do they?
                                                            • Figure 31: Snack flavor preferences, by Millennials, March 2017
                                                        • Snack Attitudes

                                                          • Beverages gain snack momentum
                                                              • Figure 32: Snacking attitudes, March 2017
                                                            • The dividing line between a meal and a snack
                                                              • Figure 33: Snacking attitudes, “It’s hard to distinguish between snack and meal options on a menu,” by generation, March 2017
                                                            • The social generation
                                                              • Figure 34: Snacking attitudes, by generation, March 2017
                                                            • iGens have a sweet spot for beverage-based snacks
                                                              • Figure 35: Snacking attitudes, by iGens and Millennials, March 2017
                                                            • Hispanic Millennials are a core snacking demographic
                                                              • Figure 36: Snacking attitudes, by Hispanic and Hispanic non-Millennials, March 2017
                                                            • FSRs can cater to leisurely snacks
                                                              • Figure 37: Snacking attitudes, by gender, March 2017
                                                            • Protein and price point
                                                              • Figure 38: Snacking attitudes,” i enjoy snacks that are protein-rich,” by household income, March 2017
                                                          • Snack Pairings

                                                            • Fruits, nuts and cheese lead in snack interest
                                                                • Figure 39: Snack pairings, March 2017
                                                              • Traditional yogurt wins favor with younger consumers
                                                                • Figure 40: Snack pairings, by age, March 2017
                                                              • Women crave healthy pairings
                                                                • Figure 41: Snack pairings, by gender, March 2017
                                                              • Coffee and pastries cater to socialization
                                                                • Figure 42: Snack pairings, by snack motivator, March 2017
                                                              • An income divide for healthier snack profiles
                                                                • Figure 43: Snack pairings, by household income, March 2017
                                                            • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                              • Data sources
                                                                • Consumer survey data
                                                                  • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                    • Abbreviations
                                                                      • Terms