Well we’ve started the New Year with a Veganuary focus from some food companies cashing in on promoting their new vegan snacks. Healthy snacking is becoming big business, and the manufacturers of snacks are capitalising on our ever growing need for fast food that we can eat on the go, due to our endless lack of time.
Last year the snack market was valued at a staggering $23billion, and really it’s not surprising when even the house builders are now building properties without a kitchen. When I returned to Manchester last year my Uncle’s main conversation for a couple of days was about how the one bedroom flats down the road were being built without a kitchen, I could understand why this would be happening. So many of my younger single clients no longer cook, they just buy everything in, replacing meals with snacks, eating main meals in the works or uni canteen, and eating the rest on the run from one gig to another. Few of them actually make food from scratch and when the manufacturers and takeaway food producers are now filling the meal on the go gap, why would they?
Unlike my Uncle I was not shocked, this has been an ongoing trend for a while now, even housebuilders have been downsizing their kitchens over the past few years, once they realised that people used them very little. In new builds kitchens are now 13% smaller than they were at their height in the 1960’s, with the counter top sizes being reducing as it’s incorporated into an open plan living space.
So mostly the manufacturers of food are seeing that it’s becoming the norm for people to eat on the run, out of cartons and packets, or just buying in ready cooked on the way home.
As the way we go about eating is changing, it’s being noted that consumers are wanting better and a healthier quality foods provided for them to eat on the go, and the types of snacks and on the go meals are changing. The crisp market last year declined by £27million as healthier options such as popcorn took over the mantle to the tune of £100million. Manufacturers are having to clean up their act, well in some cases anyway because they can see that there is a growing world wide market for healthier living and eating.
This growth of snacks includes granola bars, protein bars, paleo bars, nuts and seeds, meat snacks, dried fruit and trail snacks. There are regional differences in the UK, France and Germany who are fuelling a growth in the dried fruit snack market, although cereal and granola bars are our favourite choice with over 47 million kilos being eaten just in the UK. Nuts and seeds are one of the fastest growing segments across the whole world. There is even a growing market for snackable fruit and vegetables which are the small baby carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes we see being repackaged for us as an individual sized snacks!
In the UK more than 47% of us consume on the go snacking products and across the UK and Ireland it’s considered that over 70% snack at least once each day. So this isn’t a small market by any stretch of the imagination and the days of 3 meals a day eaten at home are long gone for many in our society particularly the younger generation.
In Ireland over 43% of the over 65s ate at meal times, with only 24% of the under 65’s so it’s clear that meal times are being eroded away. Hence why these snacks and on the go meals are aimed at the 16-24 year old age group, often packaged as high protein, low carbohydrate bars and in particular the breakfast bars are heavily marketed to this age group.
Why am I so bothered about what is happening? Because many of these healthy snack foods are now being lived on for most of the day by my younger clients. They feel that because it’s a healthy snack it’s OK to eat it 3 times a day, they’ve replaced their chocolate and sweets and often proper meal times with these convenience healthy snacks. Often they come with a list of vitamins and minerals they contain, but these bars are still processed, containing little of what the body truly needs to live on. I don’t really care how superfood laden they say they are, we need to be eating real food as meals and not pretending that a snack meal alternative is making us fit and healthy.