With consumers living increasingly busy, on-the-go lifestyles, operators who offer grab-and-go items are in the best position to benefit from the snacking public's eating habits. But since most people turn to different snacks throughout the day, operators need to provide diverse options to capture consumers' changing appetites. The ongoing popularity of grab-and-go items reveals trends that could help operators tailor their inventories to increase sales, especially in the workplace.
What do snackers want?
According to The Hartman Group's 2017 Out of Home Snacking report, consumers who buy snacks generally look for qualities that grab-and-go options are designed to provide, such as:
● Functional benefits such as focus or energy
● Familiar and interesting flavors
● Reasonable value
● Readily available
When foodservice options are conveniently located, people in the labor force appear to form habits based on their snack purchases. For example, The Hartman Group found that 20% of office workers who have an onsite food vendor (such as a vending machine, cafeteria, convenience store or restaurant) will buy snacks at least once a day.
Although one in five may seem low, that number is likely to grow as more people gain access to onsite vendors, making grab-and-go snacks an area of considerable opportunity. The report also found that half of all healthcare industry employees have access to an onsite vendor, and an impressive 90% of these employees will buy food onsite at least once a week.
Perfecting your all-day product mix
Snackers' appetites and buying habits shift before and after lunch. Consumers who work in offices might look for morning meals or snacks that can fuel the first half of their day, travel easily and require minimal preparation. These consumers might turn to the familiar flavors such as a cereal-and-milk bar, pre-portioned crackers and hummus dips or packs of dried fruit and nuts that keep consumers full till lunchtime.
But appetites turn sweeter in the afternoon. The Hartman Group’s Out of Home Snacking report found that desserts and sweet snacks sell best between lunch and dinner hours, as consumers look for comfort in a treat. Similarly, in Technomic's 2018 Snacking report, 57% of consumers say they buy desserts and baked goods for snacks at least occasionally.
Among those consumers who do buy sweets for snacks, Technomic’s Snacking report also found that 60% said they would consider purchasing donuts, while 49% would consider brownies and 27% would consider packaged snack or cereal bars. This provides operators with an opportunity to capitalize on sweet snack sales by offering innovative, craveable snacks that office workers can easily take with them.
Additionally, even consumers who look for snacks that meet nutrition, fuel, or diet goals still purchase grab-and-go comfort foods thanks to the built-in portion control. When packaged foods include high quality ingredients, such as a cookie with fruit filling or granola bars with dark chocolate, these items can attract the customers who seek out better-for-you options.
Offering unique flavors and formats can help boost snack sales as well. According to Technomic's 2018 Snacking report, 31% of consumers say they buy healthful snacks more often when the flavors seem interesting. For example, breakfast biscuits that pair well with yogurt or natural spreads could draw the attention of consumers who would have otherwise limited their snacks to fruits or nuts that were brought from home.
To boost sales of snacks, offering convenient and tasty grab-and-go options is key. Snacking is only increasing, so ensuring that snackers have access to what they want is crucial in noncommercial food service locations. Offering a range of grab-and-go foods, from healthy Greek yogurt to indulgent gourmet cookies and beyond, will help increase participation and sales.