UK consumers aged, aged between six and 24-years-old, are the biggest snackers in Europe. On average, European consumers snack 807 times each year. This compares to an average of 825 snacks a year eaten by the UK's six to 13-year-olds and an average of 856 snacks consumed each year by the UK's 14 to 24 year-olds.

"Snacking is so ingrained in UK eating habits that it has become a way of life rather than a trend but it is younger consumers, with their relatively care-free approach to eating, who are particularly frequent snackers", the researches author Daniel Bone, consumer markets analyst at Datamonitor, said.

Snacking trends for the two age groups show an increase in the consumption of impulse snacks such as confectionery and crisps. 

As consumers move away from traditional meal patterns, Datamonitor suggested that the gaps this creates are increasingly filled by snacks. "More demanding work schedules and hectic lifestyles mean that traditional main meals are giving way to smaller, more frequent snacking occasions," Bone.
 
The research revealed that while UK consumers snack throughout the day, the afternoon an evening are peak snacking periods. Datamonitor found that 20% of UK consumers claimed to 'never' snack in the morning (compared to a high of 37% in Sweden), while only 10% claim to 'never' snack in the afternoon (compared to a high of 28% in Sweden). "Afternoon snacking is increasingly influenced by the fact that consumers are eating lighter 'grab-and-go' lunches. This creates a strong need for an afternoon pick-me-up," Bone commented.
 
In 2005 the combined confectionery and savoury snack market was valued at GBP8.8bn. Between 2000 and 2005, the market by 11%. However, Datamonitor has suggested that growth for the next five years is forecast at less than 2%.

"The fact that consumers no longer define "snack" with such strong reference to chocolate, sweets and crisps is one factor shaping the future of the snacking industry," Bone said. "Traditional impulse categories such as confectionery and savoury snacks are under increasing threat from new product formats. Bakery items in particular have been made more snack friendly in recent years."

Another important factor is the growing demand for healthier snacks. Datamonitor found that 62% of UK consumers sought "food and drinks which are both convenient and healthy".

"All food products are being examined with more scrutiny by today's consumers; products must deliver superior sensory appeal, together with health benefits," Bone concluded.