5 Tips to Drive Foodservice Snack Sales in 2020

January 17, 2020

5 Tips to Drive Foodservice Snack Sales in 2020

Consumers seek portable snacks that meet their demands for wellness, convenience.

Meeting Consumers’ Demand for Snacks in 2020

As consumers increasingly snack throughout the day instead of eating traditional meals, it’s important for operators to focus on offering items that satisfy their demands for flavor, portability, healthfulness, portion control and other attributes. Consumers increasingly view the quality of their snacks to be as important as the quality of their traditional meals. In fact, 71% of adults say that snacking gives them “time to connect with themselves”– and 53% of consumers say they look forward to the snacks in their day more than the meals, according to the State of Snacking: 2019 Global Consumer Snacking Trends Study from Mondelēz International.

The following snack options reflect the direction of consumer snacking in the year ahead:

Sweet Bao

Chocolate Bao
Wow Bao

Consumer interest in creative international snacks will remain hot in 2020. An example includes the Coconut Custard Bao and Chocolate Bao from dumpling chain Wow Bao, which were introduced last year and are available in snack-sized two-packs, as well as shareable four-pack and six-pack orders.

Image from Wow Bao

Korean Fried Cauliflower

Korean Fried Cauliflower
Cheesecake Factory

The Cheesecake Factory has been on the leading edge of offering a range of small plates, snacks and appetizers, including on-trend vegetable-forward dishes such as its Korean Fried Cauliflower, seasoned with Korean chili sauce, toasted sesame seeds and green onion. It offers a plant-based alternative to fried chicken wings for consumers seeking to avoid meat, with a comparable flavor and crunch.

Image from


The Little John
Jimmy John’s

Sandwich Chain Jimmy John’s recently rolled out the Little John, a smaller version of its traditional sub sandwiches. The item meets consumer demands for smaller portion sizes at reduced prices.

Image from Jimmy John’s


Press Waffle Co.

Waffles such as those from Press Waffle Co. reflect several trends in snack foods. They are a traditional breakfast item that has been repurposed for anytime snacking, and they also lend themselves to photo shares on social media.

Image from Food Management

Queso Blanco

Queso Blanco
Chipotle Mexican Grill

This new dish from Chipotle added an authentic, affordable snack option to a menu that is mostly known for its larger-portion burritos and bowls. It is made with aged Monterey Jack cheese, white cheddar and three types of peppers—serrano, poblano and chipotle.

Image from Nation's Restaurant News

Pastrami Bao

Pastrami Bao Buns
Panda Express

Another low-priced, small-portion snack from Panda Express that incorporates on-trend ingredients, this item was a limited time offer at the chain’s Innovation Kitchen in Pasadena, Calif. Each bao bun features slow-cooked pork belly with liquid smoke and pastrami spices, topped with pickled cucumber and a sweet-savory sauce.

Image from Nation's Restaurant News

Snacking is anything but random, mindless noshing between meals. In fact, it has become quite the opposite — both deliberate and mindful.

It also has evolved to become a significant part of most consumers' everyday dining routines and is expected to continue to play an important role in food trends for 2020. The majority of adults around the world — 59% — say they prefer to eat several small meals throughout the day, as opposed to a few larger meals, according to the State of Snacking: 2019 Global Consumer Snacking Trends Study from Mondelēz International. That proportion is even larger for millennials, at 70%.

Foodservice operators have an opportunity to capitalize on consumer interest in snacking, says David Portalatin, vice president and food industry advisor at The NPD Group. Most snacking occasions are currently sourced from the home — items or ingredients purchased at retail. But consumers have an interest in purchasing snacks from restaurants as well, if those snacks offer the attributes consumers are seeking around price, portion size and portability, he says.

The trend toward increased snacking “does represent an opportunity for restaurants to take advantage of this shift in behavior during between-meal occasions,” Portalatin continues.

Here are five strategies operators can leverage to drive sales for snacks in 2020.

1. Bundle Snacks and Beverages

More than half of foodservice snack occasions are beverage-only purchases, according to NPD Group research. Operators can capitalize on this by upselling consumers a snack-and-beverage combo — an opportunity that amounts to incremental revenue growth of $3 per purchase, Portalatin says.

Operators also should consider special promotions that offer consumers a discount for adding small snacks to their beverage purchases at prime snack times, such as a cookie or brownie with coffee or tea in the early afternoon.

2. Ensure Portability

The increase in snacking appears to be driven in part by consumers’ busy, on-the-go lifestyles, according to Mondelēz’s State of Snacking research. More than half of all adults, and 66% of millennials, say “quick, on-the-go bites are more suited to their lifestyle than full meals.” Meanwhile, convenience ranks as the No. 1 driver of snack choices for adults around the world. In addition, nearly half of consumers agree that being able to grab food and eat on the run prompts them to eat a late-night or between-meal snacks.

Snacking is already largely an off-premises dining occasion, Portalatin says, noting that 81% of restaurant snacks are ordered for off-premises consumption. As such, operators need to ensure that their packaging and presentation are appropriate for eating on the go. In addition, they stand to benefit by offering an assortment of grab-and-go snacks in special displays, such as the Express Market refrigerated cases at Newk’s Eatery, according to Snack Sale Solutions, a white paper produced by Mondelēz.

3. Offer Smaller Portions for Snack Options

Portion control is essential to the concept of snacking, and operators need to ensure that customers can select items that offer less than a full meal. Almost two-thirds (65%) of consumers say they often look at portion control when selecting snacks, according to the Mondelēz State of Snacking report.

Jimmy John’s, for example, recently rolled out a line of Little John sandwiches, which are basically mini versions of the chain’s traditional, full-sized subs. At $3, the items also meet consumer expectations around low-price options for snack foods.

By the same token, consumers can be expected to enjoy shareable snacks in 2020, so operators should consider identifying the shareable items on their menu and offering plates that combine multiple snack items. According to Technomic data cited in the Snack Sale Solutions white paper, 36% of consumers surveyed order small plates to share with others.

4. Consider Daypart Opportunities

Operators might also benefit from thinking outside the traditional daypart boxes when it comes to snack offerings. Breakfast foods such as muffins, donuts and scones can be an anytime snack, as can small breakfast sandwiches.

In addition, operators might benefit from offering more traditional afternoon snacks, such as salty snacks and cookies, during the morning daypart, Portalatin says. Salty snacks are consumers’ No. 1 snack preference in the afternoon, but they also make a strong showing at No. 3 in the morning daypart. Consumers are also more likely to look for better-for-you items in the mornings, he adds.

In the evening, consumers tend to shift away from the better-for-you items they opted for in the mornings and are instead ready to reward themselves with a treat — whether it’s a sweet snack or a traditional dessert item such as ice cream, cookies or brownies, for example.

5. Provide “Permissible Indulgence”

Consumers view snacking as an important part of their mission to “be well,” Portalatin explains. That includes both their desire to pursue a healthy diet and their need to satisfy their emotional well-being, which can include small indulgences such as sweet snacks. Consumers will also seek “permissible indulgence,” or treats that have some attributes they may consider healthy, such as all-natural or organic ingredients.

About two-thirds of adults see snacking as a way to help “improve their quality of life,” according to the State of Snacking report. The majority also say snacks are just as important to their mental (71%) and emotional (70%) well-being as their physical well-being.

Consumers acknowledge the need for balance, with 80% saying they “appreciate having the option of both healthy and indulgent snacks, depending on the moment of need.” Two-thirds of consumers often look at portion control when selecting snacks, the report found, and 83% of people agree a balanced diet can include a little indulgence.

Experts say 2020 promises to be another strong year for snacking, and foodservice operators can grab a larger share of the market with the right menu mix and positioning of snacks.

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