The simplest definition of snacking is consuming food between main meals – but snacking has a bad reputation sometimes, because we choose the wrong snack, the easy snack, the snack that satisfies a craving and leaves us less nourished.
Often, a snack can be empty calories, with little or no nutritional value.
The summer season is ripe with fruit-snacking options, and retailers have become creative with product and packaging options to delight the senses. They’re appealing to the consumer who may not even be thinking about snacking at the time of purchase.
By its very nature, snacking is a spur-of-the-moment decision. Most of us don’t give much thought to when we will snack. Many of us go for what’s closest, easiest and, all too often, the least healthy option.
How many times have we been driving along from point A to point B, and we feel a hunger pang, so we turn off the road to a convenience store? The first thing we see are shelves filled with salty snacks, chips, processed meat items and snack cakes. Literally, they are labeled “snack” cakes. You probably know the brand, and they are all snack cakes. So, we make the easy decision to get one or even two snacks. For me, I usually grab a salty and sweet snack because my taste buds like something salty followed by something sweet.
For those convenient stores which do offer fresh fruit or vegetable snacks, the refrigerated case is usually near the back or middle of the store. It’s not always well maintained. And because most convenience stores don’t have coolers to keep backstock, once the limited options are gone, they’re really gone until the next delivery. It’s a missed opportunity.
For most of us, we head to the supermarket with a list in hand. We put into our baskets the primary items we need from our shopping lists, plus some extra items, which are often snacks.
The produce department can provide a wealth of impulse snacks, and retailers make it quite easy for us to choose the offerings. At the best-in-class retailers, fresh-cut produce is the top-selling category, with the profits to go along with it. Many retailers’ fresh-cut category penetration rates comprise 15-20% of total department sales. But we know all fresh produce snacks do not come from the fresh-cut section. Don’t overlook these other very viable snack options in whole produce.
Consider the moments we usually go for snacks at home: mid-morning, afternoon and after dinner. Understanding these snacking moments can help retailers build strategies to help their customers identify, not just snacking options, but when it’s the right time for certain snacks at certain intervals of the day.
Build out a suggested time for snacks. Identify which items to choose, alternating between fruits and vegetables. Post those ideas at the point of sale, on your digital storefront and even in print ads.
How many times have you seen a sign at the grocery shelf that says “great for snacking”? Now, how many times do we see that message on fresh produce? It’s more than we used to, but do consumers recognize it? There are so many whole fruit items which are great for eating out of hand in summer. Table grapes, cherries and pears are summer favorites, along with the year-round items such as berries, apples, citrus and bananas. And I would add kiwi. Oh, and stone fruit too! I enjoy eating a juicy, sweet peach, nectarine, plumcot, pluot or the occasional plum so much I hold onto that pit and clean off every fibrous morsel. What, no melons? Well, melons are more complicated when it comes to snacking on out of hand, but it’s not insurmountable. Fresh-cut melons are a huge contributor to snacking but mostly for snacking at home.
Maybe consider avocados as a snack, and tomatoes too — not just the specialty or grape types. Yes, these items might seem like a stretch, but I love a good summer tomato sliced up with some cracked salt. And as for avocados, they come with their own plate. They’re easy to slice inside the peel and scoop right out.
There’s also a big opportunity with mangos. Mango carving takes practice and is not for the faint of heart. But I would say a ripe and juicy mango may be the best bite in the world of fresh produce. I know that might be debatable and certainly I love it all, but I’m not alone: The mango is in the top five of the world’s most consumed fruits. So, it’s time mangoes made the snacking list!
With persistent inflation and retailers working overtime to develop strategies to keep customers in the produce aisle, snacking should be front of mind as a way to increase volume and overall tonnage. Where in-store sampling has returned, it can have a significant impact on purchase decisions as well.
Increasing volume was one of the prevailing themes at the June 9-10 Retail Conference in Schaumburg, Ill., hosted by the International Fresh Produce Association. It’s especially tricky, as consumers try to stretch their food dollar. The way retailers market and promote produce during these inflationary times will have a direct impact on increasing demand for fruits and vegetables.
But with an 84% share of the fruit and vegetable dollar going to fresh, the opportunities are ripe. Capitalizing on a consumer’s need to snack could be a winning formula over the next several months.