The snacking trend—particularly one that replaces meals with multiple healthy snacks throughout the day—is catching on in America, with nearly two-thirds of adults claiming to snack between meals. In fact, roughly 40 percent of adults say they eat several small meals throughout the day compared to almost 35 percent in 2005. This trend emphasizes healthier eating, an idea reinforced by the Dietary Guidelines announced last week that warned against consuming too much added sugar.

But while Americans are making healthier food choices throughout the day, a recent study by market analyst Packaged Facts shows there is still a pervasive desire to indulge in treats they know won’t help their waistlines. However, when possible, consumers want and seek out healthier or ‘better for you’ versions of their favorite treats.

This sustained desire to seek out comfort snacks—from cookies to cakes to doughnuts—has allowed the market for packaged sweet baked goods to continue to thrive in today's health-focused climate, according to Packaged Facts.  Sales reached $20 billion in 2014 and will uptick by a projected CAGR of almost 3 percent to reach $23 billion in 2019. Although other product categories are more suited to healthier formulations, sweet baked goods manufacturers have responded with products formulated to reduce sodium, sugar and fat, eliminate high fructose corn syrup and trans fats.  Products continue to be launched that are more natural, organic, and gluten-free, or include more beneficial ingredients such as whole and multi-grains, fiber, seeds and fruit. 

“The market is mature with growth challenged by health and diet concerns, changing snacking choices and an increasing desire for fresh rather than packaged foods,” says David Sprinkle, research director at Packaged Facts. “But there are opportunities for growth as consumers snack smarter even when indulging by choosing sweet goods designed for 'grab and go' snacking or products designed to minimize calorie count without overtly sacrificing the flavors familiar to customers.”

Cookies are typically consumers’ treat of choice, with nearly three quarters of US households eating them. Most households eat regular cookies while only a small percentage eat reduced fat/low fat or sugar free most often. Chocolate chip cookies are America's favorites with soft preferred by more people than crunchy versions.  Bite-sized cookies have grown in popularity as more people are eating "minis" or portion-controlled sizes.