Industry faces growing pressure to revolutionise snacking

Date : 17 August 2020

Natasha Maynard

Nutrition & Scientific Affairs Manager

COVID-19 has had a profound effect on the way we eat and drink. Despite many consumers reporting an increase in snacking behaviour, around 1 in 4 (27%) shoppers claim they’re trying to snack less in an effort to improve their diet. Here we explore shoppers’ openness to tactics aimed at shifting them towards healthier snack options.

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has transformed many aspects of our lives and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

We’ve seen huge shifts in consumers’ shopping and eating habits, some of which have been positive and indicate a closer connection with food.

  • 39% have tried to eat more healthily
  • 37% have cooked more from scratch
  • 29% have used up more leftover food
  • 29% ate together more as a household
  • 19% ate breakfast more often

Source: IGD research (Base: 2,029 British shoppers, 3rd-4th June 2020)

IGD is looking for ways to encourage consumers to maintain some of these positive habits as lockdown lifts.

Some of these behaviours likely stem from the need to adapt shopping and eating habits to fit new routines, or as a result of limited food availability/access to shops during lockdown. But perhaps, in part, it also stems from a deeper desire to take back control and prioritise health and wellness?

However, it’s not been plain sailing for all on the health front, with snacking being a concern for some. Indeed, self-reported data from the COVID Symptom Study app suggests an average weight gain of 3kg in those who reported increased snacking during lockdown.

Consumers report that they’re snacking more

Recent research from the Food Standards Agency suggests people have been snacking more on cakes, biscuits, confectionary and savoury snacks during lockdown.

Source: FSA Consumer Tracker Report waves 1, 2, 3 and 4

This finding is also echoed by others that looked at consumer behaviours during lockdown.

A report from Bite Back 2030 and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity describes snacking as the "biggest negative consequence" in eating habits during the pandemic, highlighting a significant increase in snacking amongst young people.

Source: Bite Back 2030 ‘Hungry for Change’ report

Despite this self-claimed increase in snacking behaviour, our research found many shoppers claim to be making a conscious effort to snack less.

More shoppers claim that they’re trying to reduce snacking

As lockdown restrictions ease and people establish a ‘new normal’, more shoppers claim that they’re prioritising less snacking with regards to improving their diet.

Around 1 in 4 (27%) shoppers prioritise reducing snacking with regards to improving their diet (up from 25% at the start of lockdown).

Source: IGD (Base: 1,000+ ALL shoppers, July 2020)

This presents an opportunity to shift consumers’ mindsets – why is snacking often perceived as a barrier to eating well? Whilst it’s true that we should be eating fewer snacks containing high levels of fat, salt and sugar, there are many snack options that can make a positive contribution towards a healthy, balanced diet.

An opportunity to revolutionise snacking

So what are the key opportunities to shift consumers’ perceptions around snacking?

Shoppers want more special offers on healthy foods

The government recently unveiled a raft of new measures as part of its new obesity strategy, including restrictions on advertising and promotions of foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS).

This will see the end of deals like ‘buy one get one free’ on unhealthy food, including snacks, high in salt, sugar and fat, as well as a ban on TV and online adverts for HFSS food before 9pm.

With two-thirds of shoppers (67%) agreeing that there aren’t enough special offers on healthy foods, food companies face increasing pressure to rethink the positioning of HFSS snacks.

Source: IGD (Base: 1,000+ ALL shoppers, July 2020)

Most shoppers are open to reformulation

Shoppers are increasingly open to reformulation; 81% agreed ‘I’m happy if recipes of products are changed to make them healthier, provided they’re still as tasty’ (up from 79% in October 2019).

We’ve also seen that some healthy eating priorities have been dialled up since the beginning of lockdown.

18% are prioritising reducing overall calories (up from 16% in April 2020)

12% are prioritising eating more fibre/wholegrain (up from 10% in April 2020)

9% are prioritising eating more vegetarian foods (up from 7% in April 2020)

Source: IGD (Base: 1,000+ ALL shoppers, July 2020)

As we emerge from the pandemic, we hypothesise that interest in holistic health will continue to grow. This will present new opportunities for food companies to showcase how their products, including snacks, meet shoppers’ desires to eat more healthily.

Visit for more insight and resources to help consumers transition to healthier and more sustainable diets.