According to Mintel Group, Ltd.:

  • 43% of US consumers say the price is the most important attribute of a salty snack compared to 37% in 2022.
  • 40% of US consumers say flavor and brand familiarity remain the most important attributes in a salty snack
  • 67% of US consumers choose snacks while relaxing and to satisfy a craving
  • 38% of Gen Z and 39% of Millennials choose snacks to relieve boredom, and 34% of Millennials choose snacks to relieve stress.

The salty snack market continues to grow, although it is not immune to inflation effects on consumer behavior. Mintel Group’s research shows that consumers who describe their financial situations as "struggling" or "in-trouble" are the most likely to have decreased year-over-year salty-snack consumption. Its findings also state that among those who haven’t increased consumption, 37% would be motivated to purchase more salty snacks if there were more budget-friendly options. 43% of reported consumers consider the price of these snacks to be the most important attribute for purchasing, compared to 37% in 2022.

Surprisingly, despite rising inflation dampening consumer spending, the salty snacks market is seeing continued growth as consumers continue reaching for options. According to Mintel, over a quarter of consumers (27%) report increased consumption of salty snacks compared to last year. The largest demographic of contributors are Millennials (47%), followed by parents (46%) and employees that work from home at least some of the time (42%).

Consumption has increased across all salty snack markets in the last year. Reportedly, top growth is in cheese-flavored snacks (+6%), microwavable popcorn (+7%) and corn snacks (+8%) sectors. Even fewer mainstream sectors like chips/puffs made from vegetables, beans or ancient grains is seeing increase (+7%), which suggests that consumers are purchasing a mix of familiar and exciting salty snacks foods.

"Budget constraints are challenging consumers across the board, and even though salty snacks are relatively affordable, they are not necessities. As consumers increase their snacking overall, brands will be challenged to find a mix of the familiarity and newness that consumers are seeking. Brands can meet these consumers with value options that offer them familiarity, like a box of Cheez-Its or a bag of Fritos, when the trial of new snacks may feel risky,” says Kelsey Olsen, consumer insight analyst food & drink at Mintel Group Ltd. "Retailers also have a prime opportunity to provide value in their private-label salty snack offerings while showcasing that private brands can deliver on flavor and innovation. Winning brands will need a crave-worthy flavor experience at the forefront, with a foundation of comfort." 

Mintel reports that salty snacks are meeting specific emotional needs for consumers, as over two-thirds of consumers report choosing snacks for relaxation and to satisfy cravings (67%), outpacing hunger as a motivator (58%). Mintel also states that younger generations have an even more defined emotional appeal and is still rising. Two in five Millennials (39%) choose snacks to relieve boredom—a nearly 10 percentage-point increase (30%) since 2018. Even further, Mintel a third of Millennials (34%) choose snacks to relieve stress today, compared to 24% of Millennials five years ago.

"As consumers continue to navigate stressful and evolving times, salty snacks can be there to help them slow down and even relieve stress. Salty snacks are winning in their ability to satisfy cravings and meet emotional needs, expanding their role beyond a quick hunger-satisfying solution. Salty snacks must be versatile in their ability to meet different occasions, but at base, they must simply bring consumers joy. Brands must continue to help consumers make positive associations with snacks to further encourage permissibility on different occasions as well as facilitate an experience that meets more emotional needs like a snack positioned for self-care," concludes Olsen.