America loves to snack. Retail sales of packaged snacks reached $68 billion in 2008 and could reach $82 billion by 2013, according to Mindbranch.com. The weak economy has resulted in less dining out and consumers are turning to snacking instead. Snacks are a wide-ranging category that includes both the sweet and the savory.
The category of sweet snacks covers a broad spectrum, from candies to baked goods to nut- and grained-based products. Some defy categorization such as Jell-O. Candies include traditional candy bars, such as those made by Hershey’s and Nestlé’s, to the high-end gift chocolates like those made by Godiva and See’s. Baked goods include cookies, crackers, cupcakes and pastries. This category boasts iconic names such as Ring Dings, Twinkies and Moon Pies. Grain- and nut-based snacks include products such as caramel-covered popcorn like Cracker Jacks and Fiddle Faddle. Ice cream also continues to be a popular American snack. They consume nearly 5 gallons per capita annually, according to the Canadian Dairy Information Center.
When friends gather together to watch the football game on Sunday afternoons, it is usually savory snacks that take center stage. These include things such as nuts, seeds, popcorn, potato chips and pretzels. Manufacturers now offer a plethora of versions of these traditional snacks. Potato chips come in myriad flavors that range from barbecued to salt and vinegar to ranch. Popcorn has been elevated to gourmet status with flavorings such as cheddar cheese, chocolate, peanut butter and fruit. The result has been steady growth in the savory snack market. According to Research and Markets’ “Savory Snacks: Global Industry Guide,” the market grew by 5.3 percent in 2009. It predicts the market will increase by 28 percent between 2009 and 2014.
In 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama began a campaign to reduce obesity in the United States by getting kids to eat healthier. That includes healthier snacks, eschewing foods with high fat and sugar content. Both children and adults are being encouraged to snack on more fruits and berries, as well as fruit-related snacks such as applesauce, sugar-free Popsicles, fruit salads and smoothies. Looking to take the place of chips and dips at those football parties are veggies and dips made from low-calorie dressings, beans, hummus and salsa. Whole grain snacks such as crackers and sugar-free cereals, along with popcorn (sans butter) and granola, make the list as well.
Nothing says lovin’ more than homemade confections from mom or grandma. Making snacks at home is also easier on the budget than processed packaged foods. They can include a wide variety of treats that range from traditional items like fudge, brownies and cookies to more creative fare such as fruit burritos and cinnamon popcorn.
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