Snacking is bigger than ever. And it’s not just eating a bag of chips or candy bar as in the past. From unique sliders to tapas to mini entrees, snacking—defined as any meal eaten outside of breakfast, lunch and dinner—is exploding in popularity due to increasingly busy lifestyles and the increasing availability of more unique choices to satisfy cravings all day long.
Consumers, especially among younger generations, are getting away from eating three square meals a day. In fact, 83% of consumers snack on a daily basis.1 And 39% of snackers snack two or more times a day.2 That’s why today, operators are turning up the culinary creativity and offering snacking options that are satisfying and on-trend. These include handheld items, smaller shareable meals and “mini” entrees that are satisfying, yet not filling like an entire meal.
This snacking revolution has evolved with consumer tastes, along with the demand for more protein throughout the day. Fortunately, there are many proteins that can fit on snacking menus in a variety of ways, perhaps none better than pork. There are lean cuts like the pork tenderloin for the health-conscious snacker, and there are cuts for guilty pleasures like pork belly. Chef Gabriel Alvarez of 90 Miles Cuban Cafe in Chicago says the sky is the limit for pork in snacking.
“I think pork’s role in snacking is versatility and lots of convenience and a guilty pleasure, for me. It’s really tasty; it’s super, super versatile and there are so many different things that you can do with it.”
As well as to those consumers who love to sample different tastes and share the experience with friends, smaller-portioned menu items can appeal to consumers who are unfamiliar with a dish or a certain cuisine and resistant to try it due to the size and cost of an entrée.
“If you’re one of those people who isn’t as adventurous and you’re afraid of trying new things, in my humble opinion, I think that if you offer a snacking menu, which just offers them a taste of something they normally wouldn’t be adventurous enough to taste, I think that helps open doors,” said Chef Alvarez. “I think that helps people feel a little more comfortable in trying something out that they normally wouldn’t.”
“From a chef’s perspective, if you’re not fully versed in making Filipino food, I’ll commit to making it in an appetizer as opposed to all the way through an entrée,” said Chef Mychael Bonner, Executive Chef at Saranello’s. “And I know people want that different variety in some of the restaurants that we do.”
Smaller portions can be very beneficial to operators as well, as 81% of operators that offer shareables indicated that they were profitable.3
People who love to snack—which includes just about everybody— are redefining the foodservice landscape, and operators are hurrying to meet their increasing demands. Creating business-building opportunities between typical mealtimes builds additional traffic and increases traffic.
Snacking is definitely “in” today, and there’s no decrease in its popularity in sight for the near future.
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1-2. 2016 Technomic Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report
3. CSP Snack Supplement, 2016