woman eating snack

The Emotional Aspect of Snacking

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered some big changes in how consumers are snacking. Better-for-you comfort snacks offer a solution to meet these new needs.


  • Younger consumers are more likely to snack for distraction and comfort. 
  • Consumers are looking for healthier snacks to satisfy their needs.

Snacking Today

Snacking changed a lot in 2020, with 35% of U.S. consumers reporting they snacked more in 2020 than the year before.1 With COVID lockdowns keeping consumers at home and many consumers wrestling with stress or boredom, snacking habits have been shifting. Both sweet and salty snack sales saw several years’ worth of growth in 2020 alone.

While many of today’s biggest snack trends are being driven by snacking motivations such as pleasure, nourishment, or health optimization, distraction represents a more recent need state. Snacking for distraction—which consists of mindless snacking in response to stress or boredom—has risen significantly during the pandemic and will continue to impact the snack foods industry for some time.

man reaching for snacks

Demographics Engaging in Snacking for Distraction

Younger consumers make up one of the demographics most likely to snack for distraction. In the U.S., Gen Z consumers lead among the generations in snacking for comfort (at 72%), followed by Millennials (at 65%).2 Gen Z and Millennial consumers also report the highest numbers for snacking when bored (63% and 64%) and for snacking to cope with stress/frustration (tied at 60%).3 

Female consumers also stand out as particularly affected by snacking in response to stress. In the UK, 46% of women consume snacks to cope with frustration, compared to only 26% of men.4 The same trend shows up in Germany, where it’s 45% of women vs. 34% of men.5 In France, nearly half (49%) of women who snack do so to cope with stress, compared with just 36% of men.6

Dig into more European Snacking Trends by downloading our latest eGuide. 


New Opportunity for Better-for-You Snacks

Despite the increase in snacking for distraction, consumers do pay attention to what’s in their snacks. The presence of specific ingredients (such as protein, healthy fats, and added vitamins/minerals) is very important to nearly one in three U.S. consumers when choosing snacks, while the absence of certain ingredients (such as sugar, carbs, and artificial ingredients) is very important to more than half.7

woman looking at box in store

And while the avoidance of sugar and salt in snacks is most prominent among Boomers, Millennials show the greatest desire for snacks that are high in protein or contain added vitamins/minerals.8 Certain non-nutrient-related claims are also very important to some consumers in snacks, including non-GMO, antibiotic-free, and hormone-free. Overall, 61% of U.S. consumers are considering one or more of these types of attributes when they choose a snack—almost as many as those who say great taste is very important (62%)!

Consumers’ high level of concern around the ingredients in their snacks paired with the rise in snacking to cope with stress and boredom indicates an opportunity for brands to create better-for-you snacks that meet these needs. These should be snacks that appeal to consumers’ desires for comfort, indulgence, and health that can reduce the guilt and regret often associated with mindless snacking. 

Collaborate with Glanbia for Snacks That Satisfy

Snacking will continue to evolve as the world reemerges from the pandemic. However, we can expect that the snacks most likely to succeed with consumers going forward will be those that not only taste great but make consumers feel good about choosing them.

To create better-for-you snacks for today’s market, Glanbia Nutritionals provides the ingredient support you need. Learn more about our snacking capabilities—from dairy and plant-based functional proteins to custom premix solutions and more!


1-3. The Hartman Group, Snacking 2020: Emerging, Evolving and Disrupted, October 2020.
4. Opinion Matters, Survey of 2,001 consumers in the UK, June 2021.
5. Opinion Matters, Survey of 2,029 consumers in Germany, June 2021.
6. Opinion Matters, Survey of 2,080 consumers in France, June 2021.
7-9. The Hartman Group, Snacking 2020: Emerging, Evolving and Disrupted, October 2020.

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