How America became a nation of snackers

How America became a nation of snackers
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Americans are obsessed with in-between snacks and snack sales are surging. In the fourth quarter, net sales of Doritos, Cheetos, Ruffles, PopCorners, Smartfood, and SunChips increased by double digits.

Pirate's Booty retail sales grew by roughly 32%, and SkinnyPop sales rose by about 17%. That's partly because people want meals they can eat on the move and because snacks are becoming more costly.

People are also returning to their lives outside the house. But it goes beyond that. People's eating habits have altered, and conventional meals are increasingly being replaced by snacks. Numerous modest meals throughout the day are preferred over a few large ones, according to about 64% of customers worldwide.

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The way we eat in America has always evolved with the times. The three-meal-a-day pattern was introduced during the Industrial Revolution.

Snacks entered the mainstream with the advent of packaging advancements in the early 20th century. Large supermarkets offered shoppers a seemingly limitless selection of flashy, bright products to choose from.

Additionally, during the epidemic, a significant change in the working habits of millions of Americans created new snacking categories, which are excellent for snack manufacturers but bad for human health.

According to Euromonitor International, the US snack market increased from roughly $116.6 billion in 2017 to an estimated $150.6 billion in 2022 and is expected to increase to $169.6 billion in 2027. Fruit snacks, ice cream, biscuits, snack bars, candy, and savory snacks all fall under this category.

From three square meals to snacks whenever

Three meals a day may be customary now, but Ashley Rose Young, a culinary historian at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, asserts that this was "definitely not common" in the past.

Due to industry schedules dictating workers' eating habits during the Industrial Revolution, the practice became popular in the United States.

You should eat something before going to work so that you have energy for the day, according to Young.

Then a noon break would be provided to replenish your energies... followed by a post-work dinner. New eating regulations and attitudes around snacking arose in the United States as meals became more uniform.

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Abigail Carroll explains in "Three Squares," her 2013 book about American snacking and eating habits, that in the 19th century, foods like peanuts were sold by street vendors and stigmatized for being linked with the working class and impoverished. Snacking "become subversive as meals—especially dinner—grew more sociable, more mannerly, and more rigorously prescribed," she wrote.

Snacks, however, presented a profit potential for food vendors if they could find a method to get them off the streets and into homes.

They need superior packaging, something that would seal an item and preserve its freshness, to do so. Eventually, one group of businesspeople broke the code, which allowed the rest of the sector to enter. Their offering? Crispy Jack.

Snacking today

According to IRI's Watt, who has been monitoring snacking patterns for decades, boomers and Gen Xers like to indulge in a snack in the afternoon or evening. But millennials also have morning snacks.

According to Watt, millennials "truly did start to impact the way that people eat." Throughout the day, she observed, "you definitely started to see smaller meals and maybe snacks being consumed." Watt remarked that after the epidemic, there was another change: people started eating more late-night snacks.

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That was partially a result of the way people's days were spent during the epidemic.

Some parents work later hours and eat snacks to recharge since their children are kept at home during normal working hours. Others created new habits that included later bedtimes.

The rapid development of 15-minute delivery services, which encouraged consumers to purchase an item or two when they suddenly felt a need, made it possible to have a late-night delight without leaving your home.

As individuals get back to work and have more regular schedules, they might not be as interested in late-night munching. However, food vendors will probably continue to make efforts to advertise food throughout that period.

Not all snacks are the same

Depending on your definition of a snack. According to Jessica Bihuniak, a registered dietitian with the Department of Education and Human Development, choosing whole fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean protein sources, or being mindful of the portion size of their snack can sometimes help people meet certain recommendations and guidelines.

However, other foods like sweets, soda, or chips that contain saturated fats, a lot of salt, and added sugars might encourage bad behaviors.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health's Nutrition Source, the school's general guide to healthy eating, "regular intake" of these kinds of things "may create a desire for these types of foods, leading to a shift in eating patterns and diet quality."

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The so-called "better for you" selections offered by snack vendors may include less sugar or come in smaller packs to help with portion management.

According to Bihuniak, these options may be quite beneficial for some individuals in terms of weight control. However, she cautioned that people should be aware of serving sizes because even smaller containers may contain many servings.

The crucial step, according to Bihuniak, is reading food labels and keeping an eye out for saturated fat, added sugars, and salt levels.

She advised choosing something like a piece of fruit or a crunchy vegetable that doesn't come in packaging at all as your healthiest option.

It's also important to note that new research has revealed a connection between all ultra-processed foods and cancer and early mortality.


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This article originally appeared on CNN: How America turned into a nation of snackers

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