Consumers Seek Flavor Innovations When Snacking

Sweet and salty, spicy and sweet and tangy and salty flavor combos are the most popular.

July 21, 2022

People snacking on chips

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Ingredient integrity and flavor exploration has the most influence on food and snack choices across all generations, according to the Frito-Lay 2022 Summer Snack Index. Forty-two percent of consumers stated they would choose flavor combinations such as sweet and spicy, or tangy and salty over familiar, regional flavors (21%), texture (21%) and international flavors (15%).

Thirty-five percent of consumers stated that innovative flavors are most likely to influence what they select, followed by recommendations (28%), brand recognition (21%), packaging (9%) and sustainability efforts (7%). Additionally, 40% of consumers are most excited to find a snack with a flavor they love but have never had in a snack product before. Given the choice, people are selecting innovative flavor combinations most often (59%), including sweet and salty, spicy and sweet and tangy and salty.

“During the summer, people explore new activities, new places and enjoy new flavors of snacks as they attend more outdoor gatherings,” said Mike Del Pozzo, chief customer officer, Frito-Lay North America. “While flavor continues to drive consumers’ food-purchasing behaviors, we know how a company behaves matters and that’s why I’m proud of Frito-Lay’s commitment to sustainability and community impact.”

Ninety percent of consumers who snack daily care deeply about the companies whose snacks they’re eating, according to Frito-Lay. Snack companies’ attention to sustainability practices (77%), community impact around food access (78%) and treatment of employees (87%) are among the top values driving purchasing decisions.

About two-thirds of consumers surveyed are more likely to purchase products that invest in local communities, and purchasing sustainable food products is important to 66% of consumers. Also, 74% of consumers are more interested in naturally sourced ingredients than production-related factors like recycled packaging, compostable packaging or products made with recycled water.

Frito-Lay reports that long-term eating habits are shifting. Almost everyone enjoys the social aspect of snacking (81%), but Gen Z and millennials are more likely to prefer to eat in solitude (45%). Millennials (19%), Gen Z (20%) and parents (20%) are slightly more likely than average to snack on-the-go.

Parents think ahead when it comes to snacking, with more than 2 in 5 of parents planning to buy or create individually packaged snacks in advance before traveling this summer. Also, parents are more likely than non-parents to replace meals with snacks several times per week or more (52%). Sixty percent of consumers are most excited to snack at outdoor gatherings with family and friends now that pandemic restrictions have lifted.

According to NACS State of the Industry data, salty snacks accounted for 4.36% of inside sales in convenience stores in 2021, an increase of 0.24 points from 2020, while gross margins for the category were 40.83%, nearly a point (0.93) higher than 2020. Learn more about how salty snacks fared in 2021 in the NACS State of the Industry Report of 2021 Data.

Read in NACS Daily what pandemic snack and drink habits are sticking around.