A Sweet Disposition? Consumer Attitudes Toward Snacks, Snack Companies
Summary: High calorie snacks have become somewhat of a lightning rod. We surveyed 500 consumers to understand Americans' attitudes toward snacks, the companies that make them, the retailers that sell them, and the governments that sometimes try to regulate them. Here we present 4 attitudes that could influence the future of snacking in America.
Snack foods and beverages have been no strangers to the headlines in recent years.
Just last year The Wall Street Journal reported that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wanted to move forward with plans to regulate the size of sugary drinks, a plan originally envisioned by former Mayor Bloomberg and eventually overturned in court.
And even more recently, when CVS Health announced it would stop selling tobacco products, some chided the pharmacy for continuing to sell junk food. As reported by Phil Wahba of Fortune:
“At the time of [the] tobacco announcement, CVS CEO Larry Merlo was criticized by some, including customers, for continuing to sell food like potato chips and chocolate bars, even as he talked up his company’s health focus…some customers were asking why CVS didn’t sell less junk food, since it was ditching cigarettes.”
As a result, CVS has announced plans to reconfigure stores, making healthy foods more convenient to grab and unhealthy snacks less so—to “nudge, not judge.”
But even as governments consider regulating snack foods and beverages, and some retailers take steps to encourage healthier snacking, a critical question remains: What do consumers think?
We surveyed 500 snackers, split evenly between men and women, to understand America’s consumption of and sentiment toward snack foods and beverages. Below we provide 4 consumer attitudes toward snacks, the companies that make them, the retailers that sell them, and the governments that sometimes try to regulate them.
1. Consumers show widespread concern for snacking healthy
We asked 500 respondents to rate how concerned they are about consuming healthy snack foods and beverages. They did so on a scale from 0 to 10, where 10 represented “extremely concerned” and 0 “not at all concerned.” The average rating came to just under 7, at 6.9, showing a relatively high degree of concern for nutritious snacking. Our slideshare on the evolution of snacking describes other consumer attitudes toward snacking.
2. Most are neutral in their take on companies that sell high calorie snacks
We asked survey respondents, “What is your general attitude/view toward companies that sell high calorie snacks.” All in all, 54% said their view was “neither favorable nor unfavorable,” while 26% reported an unfavorable view and 20% a favorable one.
Even the favorable and unfavorable opinions trended toward the center, with just 2% declaring a “very unfavorable” view of the companies that make high calorie snack foods. Moreover, our survey showed that only 9% said they had changed their snacking habits in recent years to keep from supporting companies that sell high calorie snacks.
3. Consumers approve of stores that promote healthier snacks
Another survey question asked respondents to what extent they agree with the statement: “I believe stores and other retailers should take actions to encourage shoppers to purchase healthier snacks.” Altogether, 63% agreed with the statement to one extent or another, meaning most consumers approve of stores, perhaps like CVS, that draw attention to healthier snacks.
Indeed, 21% “completely agreed” with this statement, showing strong support for retailers that take such actions. Only 19% chose one of the three options in disagreement with the statement above.
4. But the majority disagrees that government should regulate snack foods and beverages
Likewise, respondents were asked to what extent they agree with the statement: “I believe high calorie foods/drinks should be more closely/heavily regulated by the government.” 57% disagreed with the statement, with 30% going so far as to “completely disagree.” Only 29% agreed to one extent or another.
Consequently, based on the 4 attitudes above, a snapshot of snacking in present day America might look like this: We are concerned with the nutritional quality of snacks, but not so much that we want government regulating them. In fact, we'd prefer government to stay out. And while we greatly appreciate retailers that encourage us to eat healthy snacks, we don't necessarily have a negative (or positive) opinion of companies that make high calorie snacks.