Trends / News

Snacking gone wild: Nielsen looks at snacking trends

Nine of 10 Americans snack at least once a day, with 78 percent admitting to binge snacking.

Snacking at a desk

Chances are that most of you reading this article have or will snack on something today. In fact, there’s a good likelihood you’re snacking right now. A recent two-week survey of 1,100 Americans over the age of 18 by Nielsen confirms that 91 percent of us snack at least once a day.

During the course of the survey, Nielsen discovered some interesting “tidbits” about snacking patterns, particularly when it comes to differences between men and women.

 “In comparison to men, women are more apt to reach for a snack when they are stressed or bored or simply want a treat. For men, the biggest difference was having a snack as a breakfast alternative,” says James Russo, SVP, Global Consumer Insights, Nielsen.

In addition, consumers surveyed said that supermarkets remained the most common venue for snack purchases, with half indicating that’s where they purchased their snacks. Mass merchandisers and hyper markets came in second, with 18 percent saying that’s their favorite locale for snack purchases, while convenience stores came in third at 9 percent.

Sweet as well as salty snacks came on out on top — 35 and 33 percent respectively — in response to what nutritional attributes consumers were looking for when purchasing a snack.

Healthy (i.e. fruits, vegetables, nuts and yogurt) did, however, come in third at 32 percent. Low calorie and nothing specific posted a 20 percent vote, while low sugar/sugar-free and high protein scored 19 percent on the nutritional attributes scale. Additional highlights from the survey are listed below.

How often and how much do we snack?

  • Despite increased health and wellness interest and concerns, 60 percent of American respondents said they eat just as many snacks as they did last year.
  • 91 percent of us snack at least once per day
  • Most of us (62 percent) snack once or twice per day
  • 7 percent of us will admit to snacking five times per day or more.


Binge snacking and health concerns:

  • 78 percent of Americans report binge snacking
  • 8 percent say they always binge snack. This equates to more than 19 million people in the U.S.
  • Whereas both genders are more likely to seldom “binge” snack, more women (34 percent) report occasionally binge snacking.


How do men and women differ when it comes to snacking?

  • More women reported occasional binge snacking behavior (34 percent) compared to men (29 percent).
  • Women also report snacking for stress relief (22 percent),  boredom (23 percent) or as an indulgence (48 percent) while men said they chose to snack to improve their mood (14 percent), for enjoyment (40 percent) and satisfy hunger between meals (49 percent).
  • Snacking seems to be replacing meals for many Americans:  24 percent of men and 22 percent of women reported snacking as a meal alternative to breakfast (6 percent), lunch (12 percent) and dinner (6 percent).
  • We love snacking while watching TV — both sexes picked TV as their number 1 activity while snacking (51 percent).
  • Men are more likely to snack while working (31 percent), whereas women are more likely to snack while using their smartphones, laptops or tablets (54 percent)
  • Women prefer sweets chocolate, candy or cookies (40 percent) whereas men prefer salty treats like pretzels and chips (32 percent).
  • Nearly a quarter of women snack 3-4 times a day compared to men (19 percent).
  • Both genders cited satisfying cravings as their number one reason to snack (52 percent).

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