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Gone are the days when chips and cookies were just for munching while watching TV. For some consumers, snacks have now become entire meals, defying decades of health advice. Now, almost half of U.S. consumers have three or more snacks daily—up 8% in the last two years.

The younger generation—mainly millennials and Gen Z, from teens to people in their early 40s—are likely driving this soaring phenomenon.

“Millennials took something that had a negative connotation with older generations—parents would tell you ‘don’t snack and spoil the meal’—and turned snacks into the entire meal itself,” Andrea Hernández, author of Snaxshot, an online newsletter focused on food and beverage trends, told the Journal.

The change in food choices is partly attributed to high inflation, which may be causing people to buy lower-cost food.

Forty-nine percent of consumers in 2023 are looking for snacks in multiple packs, up 8% a year ago, for various reasons like saving money and controlling intake portions.

Snacking is global, according to international food brand Mondelez. The company found patterns within snacking—such as a 42% rise in snacking between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. in 2021 compared to 2013, driven by Gen Z and millennials.

Nick Graham, global head of insights and analytics for Mondelez, told the Journal that millennials and Gen Z consumers typically eat about 10% more snacks daily compared to other generations.

Mondelez also found that between 2020 and 2022, there was at least a 10% increase in people replacing breakfast, lunch and dinner with snacks.

If snacking is booming, so too are snack-makers. U.S. snack sales reached $181 billion in 2022, up by 11% from the previous year.

Companies like Mondelez, which makes Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers, and the chocolate-maker Hershey, have seen their revenue surge 22% and 30%, respectively, from 2019 to 2022. The enthusiasm for snacking is also helping some of these companies change in how they sell their products.           

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