Snacking is surging in popularity more than ever. After a long day at the office, between meals, and after a night out, consumers may be hungry, but not hungry enough for a full meal. With “mini entrées,” simply reduced-size portions of regular entrées, consumers can tame that hunger between meals with just the right amount of delicious tastes.

One reason smaller entrées are gaining popularity is because of increasingly busy schedules. Therefore, many young consumers are moving away from the conventional three meals per day and turning to snacks. Nearly 51% of consumers will replace lunch with a snack, meaning most snack visits occur in the afternoon.1 This changing landscape offers convenience to busy working professionals and the option to fill up with these miniaturized meals, rather than a full-sized meal.

In addition to convenience, snacking on mini entrées, such as flatbreads, tacos and sliders, also allows for menu creativity and gives guests the opportunity to sample new flavors without committing to a full entrée, according to Chef Frank Dominguez of Smithfield Culinary Foodservice. “Millennials are now wanting and craving more flavors. Snacks are a perfect way to do that. You can insert an unlimited variety of unique and intriguing flavors into these snacks so they don’t have to commit to a full meal.”

A full 59% of consumers say it’s very important that snacks aren’t too large, while over a quarter (27%) of 18-to 34-year-olds say they like to purchase snacks at restaurants instead of full meals, due to health motivations.2

Therefore, another way to reach today’s snack lover is to offer protein-packed snacks that deliver the taste satisfaction that consumers desire, but can still be easily incorporated into a mini entrée. Many operators are turning to the better-for-you benefits and distinctive taste of fresh and fully cooked pork, which can offer great flavor to both a healthy or an indulgent miniaturized meal.

“Pork’s ability to be able to take on any other flavor is far and beyond the capabilities of any other meat that’s out there that’s used in snacking,” says Matthew Cappellini, Executive Chef at Le Méridien Chicago-Oakbrook Center. “Pork is a versatile meat with great flavor that is here to stay on snacking menus.”

A quick look at operator trends shows how pork is becoming a staple in the snacking craze. A selection of fresh and fully cooked pork products is helping create a variety of head-turning mini dishes. For a simple all-day item, many menus are offering easy-to-prepare sliders with fresh pork items like the ever-trending pork belly. Also featured are convenient fully cooked pulled meats for BBQ wraps, breakfast sausage for breakfast wraps and pizza toppings for mini flatbreads.

Developing a menu of mini entrées that offers consumers both reduced prices and fewer calories, while still building increased snacking business between regular meal times, can offer all-day profit potential. As today’s consumers embrace snacking as a part of their every day, operators that add these unique, appealing choices to their menus are those most likely to achieve a competitive advantage.

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1. CSP Snack Supplement, 2016.
2. 2016 Technomic Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report.

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