Almost Half of Canadians Think it’s Healthier To Snack than to Eat Three Large Meals a Day

It seems the traditional three square meals a day are facing an evolution in Canada, as new research from Mintel reveals that 46% of better-for-you (BFY) snackers feel that it is healthier to snack throughout the day than to eat three large meals. In need of constant fuel, many Canadians have snacks at the ready, with 65% of BFY snackers believing it’s important to always have healthy snacks on hand.

Keeping up with their interest in snacking throughout the day, more than half (51%) of 1,959 Internet users surveyed in Canada last year agreed that they’d like to see more healthy snacks packaged for eating on the go. What’s more, it seems there’s potential for anything to be considered a snack among younger consumers, as 45% of Canadians aged 18-24 are interested in snack-sized portions of regular foods as compared to 31% overall.

carol wong liCarol Wong-Li“Snackers today are looking for ways to satisfy cravings that fit in easily with an increasingly on-the-go lifestyle. The good news is food manufacturers and foodservice providers need not start from scratch. As many consumers have adopted the notion that anything can be a snack, companies can appeal to those looking for better-for-you snacks by rethinking packaging to make items more portable rather than reinventing the wheel. This is especially crucial for foodservice vendors in particular, as consumes aged 18-24 are the most likely to dine out, yet also feel the financial impact most when doing so. This highlights an opportunity to offer smaller serving sizes at lower price points to appeal to this group,” said Carol Wong-Li, Mintel’s associate director of lifestyles and leisure.

As consumers look to make better choices for themselves, it seems fresh and less processed snacks are coming out on top as so-called fresh fruit and vegetables (84%) are Canada’s top better-for-you snack of choice, followed by cheese (79%), nuts (69%) and popcorn (60%). In fact, Mintel research shows the snack innovation that consumers are most likely to say they would like to see more of is products made from fresh ingredients (55%).

Power of Protein

While snacks perceived to be fresh are winning out, younger consumers are placing power in protein to keep them full. Three in 10 consumers say they eat meat snacks, with younger snackers aged 18-34 the most likely age group to agree (41%). Although just 16% of consumers say they are interested in snack bars made with meat, one third (32%) of men aged 18-34 are keen to see more of this type of offering.

Following the growing flexitarian movement, it seems that plant-based products have potential when it comes to better-for-you snacking as 29% of consumers say they are interested in snacks made with plant-based protein, rising to almost four in 10 (39%) among women aged 18-34.

“Protein is a key area of interest for younger Canadians when it comes to innovations in healthy snacks, but men and women differ when one considers the actual source of protein they prefer. While young women show interest in plant-based proteins, men are more likely to turn to meat. This may stem, in part, to the different approaches taken to snacking. Younger women tend to snack because they are too busy to eat meals, whereas young men usually do so as a way to refuel after exercise. Marketers looking to promote plant-based proteins will see success by focusing on how these ingredients work to keep consumers fuller longer, while brands promoting meat can focus on how the quality of the meat protein contributes to muscle building, recovery and/or development,” said Wong-Li.

Healthy Choice Confusion

While Canadians are keen to enjoy healthy snacks, there are significant concerns. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of BFY snackers believe that many snacks marketed as healthy are not actually healthy, with just 41% saying they trust the health claims on food and beverage packaging. And for many, there’s confusion when it comes to making a healthy snack choice, as 49% say it is hard to tell if a snack is healthy.

“Many consumers today have difficulty determining the healthfulness of snacks and hold a general distrust of claims on food and beverage packaging. This may be drawing them toward choosing fresh and less processed snacks, rather than processed and/or packaged ones. Marketers can boost perceptions of healthfulness of their products by highlighting whole and/or fresh ingredients the products include and featuring clear packaging to both showcase the ingredients and offer transparency,” concluded Wong-Li.