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Healthy snacks prevail, but only just

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Healthy snacks prevail, but only just

While the perennial debate continues about the health benefits of snacking, eating between meals is almost universally widespread with 97% of New Zealanders saying they regularly consume snack foods. In the last year, New Zealanders spent $900 million on snack foods, a year-on-year increase of 4%.

Recent Nielsen research shows that healthy habits prevail by a slim margin, with 69% of respondents saying they’d consumed fresh fruit as a snack in the past 30 days - the most popular choice overall. However chocolate is a very close second with two-thirds (67%) opting for a sweet treat, followed by potato chips with 62% of the New Zealanders surveyed.

When asked about their first choice of snack, fresh fruit also came up trumps with almost one in five (20%) choosing the healthy option, followed by chocolate (13%) and a mid-meal sandwich coming third (9%). The most popular reason for snacking is ‘to satisfy hunger between meals’ - as cited by 82% of New Zealanders who eat snack foods.

Similar habits are seen across the ditch, however Kiwis just win out on pie consumption with 21 per cent of New Zealanders and 18 per cent of Australians having consumed a meat pie as a snack in the past month.

"We can definitely be called a nation of snackers," said Lance Dobson, Director of Retail for Nielsen NZ. "It’s pleasing to see healthy choices come out on top, but only just. The competition for ‘share of stomach’ is extremely fierce with a range of snack options available. A better understanding of consumer demand and the need states that drive demographic profile preferences will help manufacturers crack the code on the right portfolio balance between indulgence and healthy. It will also increase the odds of success in this ultra-competitive landscape."

What specific health attributes do we look for in our snacks? Snack foods that contain ‘low sugar’ or are ‘sugar free’ are rated very important by 28% of New Zealand respondents. While a quarter list having ‘natural flavours’ (26%), ‘GMO free’ (26%), ‘no artificial colours’ (25%) or no ‘artificial flavours’ (25%) as very important. Snacks that are ‘low in fat’ are very important for one-fifth (20%) of those who snack and ‘gluten free’ is rated very important by 7% of Kiwis.

While skipping breakfast is often talked about, and evident among one-third (34%) of New Zealanders who snack, a whopping 45% skipped lunch in favour of a snack in the past 30 days. Fewer New Zealanders seem to miss dinner though, with 27% turning to snacks instead of eating a proper night-time meal.

"There is a perception that snacks are intended more for in-between meals than for actual replacements," said Dobson. "But busy, on-the-go lifestyles often dictate a need for quick meals, and many opt for fast food options that can be high in calories and low in health benefits. There is a massive untapped opportunity to gain market share in the nutritious, portable and easy-to-eat meal alternative market that snack manufacturers could fill."

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