In total contrast to the growing Italian 'Slow Food' movement that seeks to encourage sit down meals and home prepared foods, according to the research report by 2008 the Brits - Europe's biggest snackers - will snack for nearly half of all their eating occasions.
Brits consume £143 (€212) - €4 per week - worth of snacks per person per year, a figure set to rise to almost £158 by 2008, compared to £141.5 in the US, and £109 in Europe.
"The reason behind this surprising figure is that UK consumers have a sweeter tooth. Per head consumption of chocolate confectionery in the UK significantly higher than in the US, but if fast-food type snacks were taken into account, then US per head expenditure would then be significantly higher," said Daniel Bone at Datamonitor and author of the report.
According to the report, snacking markets in the UK continue to grow rapidly, driven by the increasing acceptability and 'need' to snack throughout the day. The size of the snack market in the UK is expected to grow by over 20 per cent to £10.3bn in2008, rising from £8.5bn in 2003.
"UK manufactures and retailers have been relatively effective in creating reasons for consumers to snack more. Even simple innovations such as placing chocolate or cereals into bagged snack format like Kellogg's have done with Special K means that volumes of impulse snack consumption continue to increase," explained Bone.
According to Datamonitor's research the occasion, rather than the consumer's demographic profile, has a greater influence on the choice of snacks. "Marketers, therefore, need to place greater emphasis on positioning products against defined occasions, and where possible, by time of day," said the report.
Despite claims in both the European and US trade press about marketers increasingly seeking to position products against more specific consumption occasions, many consumers spoken to as part of the Datamonitor's research struggled to identify brands they perceived as adopting such an approach, says Bone.
Performance-boost and health-focussed products should target morning and afternoon occasions as the need for indulgence increases through the day. As the evening draws in, consumers seek emotional comfort from more indulgent snacks and drinks.
"Evening is the peak time for indulgence,"comments Bone. For example, in 2002 popcorn manufacturer Orville Redenbacher successfully reached its consumers at a very specific time, by establishing 9:00 pm every night as 'Orville Time' in Canada.
According to the report, the 'emotional fulfillment' that snacks play, particularly with women, should not be underestimated. Emotional factors and benefits are crucial in differentiating product propositions, and the use of 'Experiential Marketing', whereby a company gets its customers to sense, feel, think, act and relate to its brands, will significantly assist marketers in getting consumers to become emotionally connected with snack brands.
European and US consumers are looking for new, cosmopolitan, taste experiences. Widespread interest in ethnic cuisines and new flavour experiences are also driving innovation in a number of snacking categories, especially bagged snacks.
Simultaneously, consumers are now willing to 'trade-up' from standard to premium products, which better fulfil their needs. Consequently, there has been an 'in-filling' of the market between the traditional black and white segmentation of standard and premium.
"The emergence of mid-market segments makes it possible for consumers to feel that they are trading-up, while the only slightly higher price point allows them to do so more regularly. This has led to the emergence of the super-premium and mid-market," adds Bone.
While the trend is towards more experiential flavours with greater sensory appeal, an equally important counter-trend is the return to traditional flavours.
"To ensure that marketers capitalise on these somewhat paradoxical preferences they must develop broad product portfolios catering for fragmented tastes and develop milder versions of more experiential flavours that encourage initial experimentation," advises the report, New Impulse Consumption Occasions. Larger industry players in particular have the resources to ensure they are in the best position to achieve this.
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