According to research by the International Dairy, Deli and Bakery Association, nearly 90% of U.S. consumers enjoy a daily snack, trumping the number of those who eat breakfast (75%) and lunch (88%). (Dinner, however, dominates with U.S. consumers: About 96% of U.S. consumers take time for this meal daily.) However, with increased health and nutrition awareness, many Americans have cut back on snacks, suggesting the snack trend is retreating ever so slightly. Still, IDDBA research suggests that snacking remains a key part of Americans' eating habits, and snack suppliers and retailers can take further steps to satisfy consumers' "healthy" appetites.

Snack staples long ago transcended such items as chips, cookies, and crackers, and consumers today are more likely to consider any small portion of food as a potential snacking candidate. IDDBA research indicates that retailers, however, have some catching up to do with this new consumer logic: Only 20% of consumers today define snacks traditionally, while 40% of retailers still do so. In addition to seeking a greater variety of snack items, consumers also demand healthier snacks, whether lower in fat, trans fats or calories.

As flexible packaging professionals are well aware, convenience is king with consumers, a point the IDDBA research drives home. Busier lifestyles have led to an increased demand for convenient snacks, whether they're easy to access, easy to prepare, easy to eat or easy to clean up. Likewise, consumers may be more likely to eat several small meals throughout the day, and the research indicates this may be an opportunity for the snack market, especially since snack suppliers and retailers can position snacks as part of a healthy diet of eating several small meals a day.