Snack Attack

5 Things to Know About the Global Appetite for Snacks


Kate Silver

The people have spoken and they want snacks. That’s one takeaway from “Snack Attack: What Consumers Are Reaching for Around the World,” a global snacking report by Nielsen, which sought answers from 30,000 consumers in 60 countries about popular snacks. In 2014—the year of the survey—snack sales across the globe hit $374 billion, which was a 2 percent increase from the previous year.

Salty or sweet, soft or crispy, healthy or decadent—different people want different snacks for different reasons. Here are some key insights from the Nielsen report. 

There’s room to grow. The report notes that while sales of snacks in Europe remained flat in 2014 and North America saw growth of 2 percent, there’s more growth in the market for snacks in developing regions. That year saw 4 percent growth in Asia-Pacific, 9 percent growth in Latin America and 5 percent growth in the Middle East and Africa. 

Geography matters. The types of snacks people prefer vary according to where they live. “Snack Attack” points out that the sales of sweet snacks, such as chocolate, gum and candy, dominate in Europe ($46.5 billion) and the Middle East and Africa ($1.9 billion); while sales of salty snacks are high in North America ($27.7 billion); refrigerated snacks lead the way in Asia-Pacific ($13.7 billion) and cookies and snack cakes are a favorite in Latin America ($8.6 billion).

Women snack more than men. And it’s not just when it comes to chocolate. Women lead the way in consuming multiple snack categories compared to their male counterparts, including chocolate (68 percent to 61 percent), cookies and biscuits (55 percent to 48 percent), potato chips/tortilla chips (45 percent to 42 percent), nuts and seeds (44 percent to 39 percent) and more.

Snackers embrace the basics. In response to about 20 different questions about health attributes in snacks, respondents stated that the following areas were “very important” to them: all-natural ingredients (45 percent), no artificial colors (44 percent), no genetically modified organisms (43 percent), no artificial flavors (42 percent). Many respondents also said that caffeine-free (23 percent) and gluten-free (19 percent) qualities are very important in snacks.

Snacks fill a variety of needs. In other words, we snack for different practical and emotional reasons:

  • 76 percent of snackers indulge to satisfy hunger or a craving
  • 63 percent snack for nutrition
  • 61 percent seek an energy boost
  • 64 percent rely on snacks improve their moods
  • 53 percent have a snack as a reward
  • 44 percent snack when they’re stressed.

The report notes that because consumers have a desire for nutritious snacks, they may be likely to choose a snack that is both convenient and nutritious, when given the option.

There’s no question that snacks are big business. With proper research and innovation, this report shows that there’s room for snack makers to get an even bigger piece of the pie.

See full Nielsen report