Brits are not only Europe’s biggest snackers, but their snacking habits also bear most resemblance to their US counterparts, according to a new report from independent market analyst Datamonitor.

By 2008, snacking will account for 44% of all eating occasions, and Brits will spend a total of £10.3bn (US$18.5bn), representing an increase of over 20% on 2003.

“It is now well recognised that consumers are snacking more. However, British snackers are becoming increasingly difficult to please as their demand for healthy and ‘guilt free indulgence’ snacks increases,” said Daniel Bone, consumer markets analyst at Datamonitor. “The key to success lies in recognising and capitalising on these core trends which are having the most profound affect on consumer preferences and buying behaviour”.

Brits snack the American way

Brits munch through £143 worth of snacks per person per year and this is set to increase to almost £158 by 2008.  This compares to £141.5 in the US, while the average spend per person in Europe stands at £109. US consumers, however, out-eat their UK counterparts – the average number of daily snacking occasions per person in the US stood at 2.2 in 2003, compared to 1.9 in the UK.  “The reason behind this surprising figure is that UK consumers have a sweeter tooth. Per head consumption of chocolate confectionery in the UK significantly higher than in the US, but if fast-food type snacks were taken into account, then US per head expenditure would then be significantly higher,” said Bone.

Snacking markets in the UK continue to grow rapidly, driven by the increasing acceptability and need to snack throughout the day. The size of the snack market in the UK is expected to near £10.3bn by 2008, rising from £8.5bn in 2003, representing an increase of over 20%.

The occasion dictates the snack

Datamonitor’s research reveals that the occasion rather than the consumer’s demographic profile has a greater influence on the choice of snacks.  Marketers, therefore, need to place greater emphasis on positioning products against defined occasions. “With consumers exhibiting divergent behaviours depending on the snacking occasion, it becomes all the more important to position products by occasion, and, where possible, by time of day. However, despite claims in both the European and US trade press about marketers increasingly seeking to position products against more specific consumption occasions, many consumers spoken to as part of the Datamonitor’s research struggled to identify brands they perceived as adopting such an approach,” added Bone.

Performance-boost and health-focussed products should target morning and afternoon occasions as the need for indulgence increases through the day.  As the evening draws in, consumers seek emotional comfort from more indulgent snacks and drinks.