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Snack Time, All the Time: What the Rise of Snack Foods Means for Brands

Snack food purchases are on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic, making snacks a uniquely positioned vertical for brands looking to reach consumers stuck at home.

As more people are staying home and eating in due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the snack food industry has seen major sales growth.

Mondelēz, the company behind brands such as Oreo and Ritz, reported organic growth of 6.4 percent for the first quarter. Initially, the rise in sales was thought to be a result of consumers loading up their pantry reserves, but now, after the pandemic has wearied on, it looks like people are just eating more snacks for comfort.

Dirk Van de Put, chief executive officer, Mondelēz, told CNBC’s “Closing Bell” that the company believes current sales show increased interest in snacking even after consumers bought in surplus early on. 

“Originally, you would have said this was pantry loading, but this has now been going on for more than six weeks,” Van de Put told “Closing Bell.” “And unless consumers are building a warehouse for Oreos at home, I think they are eating it.”

The increase in snacking during the pandemic makes sense as you look at the role snacks can play in reducing stress. Many consumers have reported eating foods like cookies and chips to be an anxiety reliever. Late last year, Mondelēz released its “State of Snacking” report, which found that 78 percent of consumers find a sense of comfort from snacks. Another 73 percent said they find snack time helps them relieve anxiety and relax. 

Consumers’ increasing taste for snacks didn’t just exist in times of crisis either. The “State of Snacking” report found that 53 percent of consumers prefer quick bites to large meals. Millennials, in particular, seemed to prefer snack time to mealtime, with 66 percent of the demographic saying they would rather eat a quick bite instead of a full meal. 

As the market has continued to grow over the past few years and just accelerated due to stay-at-home orders, snack brands are finding a growing number of fans. As many licensors look for partners in a market that is reshuffling due to the pandemic, companies in the snack aisle can make a good fit for reaching consumers even if they’re stuck at home. 

Previous brand deals such as Lay’s and Universal’s partnership on “Trolls”-inspired chips or Crayola’s Popsicle team-up, may be more vital than ever in reaching consumers who are staying closer to home during the next year. Time will tell how consumer habits shift during the next many months, but one thing is for sure: everyone still plans to make space for snack time.

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