An annoying byproduct of the pandemic were the broad narratives that emerged about our quarantine eating habits. Everyone was making sourdough in 2020! Everyone turned to junk food to comfort themselves! These descriptions of Americans in isolation strike me as frustratingly monolithic, but at least survey data from the recently released Mondelez International “State of Snacking” report for 2021 gives us some numbers to sift through. The survey results (from 3,055 adults in 12 major markets) are an indicator not only of our current snacking habits, but how the industry intends to capitalize on those habits moving forward.
If the name “Mondelez International, Inc.” doesn’t ring any bells for you, I’m guessing that its portfolio might. These are just a few of the company’s major snack brands:
- Chips Ahoy!
- Honey Maid
- Sour Patch Kids
- Wheat Thins
The “State of Snacking” report has a hilariously ambitious set of goals, but it’s kind of interesting to ask ourselves: Why do we snack, and how do we decide which snacks to turn to? Mondelez found out that different snacks throughout the day serve different purposes in people’s routines. According to the data, 85% of respondents from 12 countries confirmed that they eat “1 snack for sustenance and 1 snack for indulgence each day.” This tracks for me; I’ll have a practical protein-rich snack before hitting the gym and dig into the sour gummi worms sometime after dinner. How about you?
Also notable were consumers’ expectations when it comes to snack variety. The vast majority of consumers on every continent surveyed agreed with the statement, “I expect to buy the snacks I want whenever I want.” Not only that, but they expect to have a wide variety of channels/platforms through which to make these purchases: Delivery apps, on-demand grocery shopping services, curbside pickup from big-box stores, bodegas, online retailers, and even social media. We’ve gotten a taste of endless convenience, and it’s hard to imagine surrendering it now.
It’s not as though we’re all deciding what to snack on through Instagram, though. When asked how they discover new products to buy, 48% of respondents selected “spotted while browsing or shopping,” a 5% increase from 2020. This potentially indicates that more people are heading back to the grocery store after a pandemic year away.
Another huge contingent of respondents (43%) said they buy new things on the recommendation of family and friends. How does a major food conglomerate capitalize on word-of-mouth? By finding every possible excuse to push products out on social media—and get you in on the “fun.”
Anytime a brand tweets something like, “Tag #WheatThinsAlwaysAndForever to enter to win a box of Wheat Thins!” [not a real promotion, as far as I know], it’s not just a way for brands to track their own social engagement; it’s to increase the likelihood that the hashtag user’s entire network starts thinking about Wheat Thins, too. Same goes for TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, you name it.
“Channel expansion is a key priority,” writes Mondelez International CEO Dirk Van de Put in the 2021 State of Snacking Report. “We’re working hard to continue meeting consumers where they are and on the platforms they choose.”
What does this mean for our snacking future? Well, in the short term, you can probably expect to see a lot more ads for Oreos and Ritz and the like, begging you to engage, engage, engage. Contests! Sweepstakes! Viral moments! TikTok challenges!
Maybe if any of you are asked to participate in the next State of Snacking survey, you could do us all a solid and skew the results: “I prefer to only buy products that don’t appear desperate to seize my attention...”