Whether you're at work or heading somewhere for leisure, the modern Brit is finding time an ever more precious commodity too often in short supply. It's little surprise that fast food companies continue to perform strongly, or that given our enthusiasm to lead a more balanced lifestyle, healthy fast-food offers such as Leon and Crussh exist.
It's a cultural shift that's seen snacking-on-the-go become an accepted norm of many people's day-to-day lives in recent times. Given the expectation that we will all be working longer and harder for the next few years as the economy recovers, it's also an important trend for operators to be aware of as people's ability to take a full lunch hour and sit-down meal comes under increasing pressure, with snack sales the best way to address this.
Exclusive research conducted for Caterer in association with Oreo clearly shows a huge expectation among operators that the snacking market is about to enter a golden period, with more than three-quarters (79%) of those surveyed agreeing that on-the-go consumption is increasing - nearly half have seen direct snack revenue growth.
As one respondent put it: "Lifestyles have changed dramatically, they seem more hectic and people don't seem to sit and eat meals as much". Another said: "Take a walk down a London street around 8am to 9am - everyone seems to be either eating or carrying something to eat."
Referring back to the emergence of the likes of Leon and others in recent years, 82% of respondents believe that society's shift towards healthier living is leading to demand for healthier snack options. Of course what people say and what people do isn't always the same. As Marc Warde, managing director of Couture, which provides catering at Pinewood Studios and the Nottingham Contemporary, said: "People say they want healthy options but bangers always outsell couscous."
Despite this Warde's 12-site operation has recognised the increasing demand for snacks on the go, and grab-and-go is very much at the heart of the services provided, something the contract catering sector at large has embraced in recent years. Despite his comments, Couture also has Milk & Honey, a health brand including wraps, superfood salads, smoothies and milkshakes, which is designed to tap into the changing public appetite.
The survey findings included broad agreement that people would pay more for a higher quality snack (75%), and that as our lives get ever busier more and more of us are skipping breakfast (64%). The top three reasons for selecting a snack product (in order of importance) according to respondents were brand name, convenience and price.
Susan Nash, communications manager at Kraft Foods, said: "The survey highlights a very positive opportunity for caterers with regards to branded snacks, with 46% agreeing they have experienced an increase in their snacking revenue and 79% agreeing that on-the-go consumption is increasing.
"Offering recognisable brands, in convenient formats along with great display would appear to be the key to success. Due to consumer's time constraints, the breakfast opportunity is seen as particularly positive."
snack facts: what types of snack are you selling?
On the go may have an increasingly healthy future ahead but unsurprisingly the most commonly offered snack in 2011 is the much-maligned crisp. Of course, the crisp is a perfect example of an evolving product that has become "healthier" in recent years with a switch to less harmful oils in production.
1 Crisps 86%
2 Biscuits 68%
3 Fruit 60%
4 Cakes 59%
5 Chocolate 56%
6 Nuts 49%
7 Yogurts 47%
Research for Snaking and Impulse Trends was conduct by Reed Business Insight from 7 February to 23 February 2011, with 144 responses predominately from the owner-operator senior executive level.