Chicago — Spending more than $90 billion on food during the past year, the 66 million “opportunist eaters” who eat on the go when the opportunity arises, tend to choose indulgence and convenience as opposed to nutrition, a new report from Information Resources, Inc. shows.
Almost half, 45 percent, of opportunist eaters say they pretty much eat what they want all the time with little consideration for nutritional intake and calorie content, while 36 percent say they split their eating between healthy and indulgent foods.
Not only foods that taste good, but also those that provide satiation, such as protein, are attractive to these consumers. IRI gives for example, the 36 percent increase in snack nut sales since 2009 evidence that consumers are looking for satiation in on-the-go foods, and snack nuts manufacturers responding with single-serve packs.
Further, there is opportunity for growth in the chocolate and non-chocolate candy segments. IRI expects chocolate candy dollar sales to grow at a rate of nine to 11 percent through 2015 and non-chocolate candy sales to grow six to eight percent, compared with four to six percent growth in both segments among the general population.
IRI notes: “Strong growth is being supported, at least in part, by innovation. For example, six of the pacesetter confections, including The Hershey Co.’s Reese’s Minis and Brookside Chocolate brands, were launched in 2012, making portable treats even more indulgent.”
What’s more, the volume of opportunist eaters is expected to keep growing as younger, time-strapped consumers enter adulthood and baby boomers, accustomed to three square meals a day, age. Most opportunists today are from single- or two-member households, live a bachelor/bachelorette lifestyle and are under the age of 45. Almost all, 92 percent, are non-Hispanic, another factor expected to change as analysts estimate 30 percent of the U.S. population will be of Hispanic origin by 2050.
IRI reports: “Marketers must invest to deepen their knowledge of household dynamics within key and target consumer groups to effectively serve today’s shoppers while simultaneously monitoring the evolution of these dynamics to begin to build a foundation for serving the world of tomorrow.”
Price is also a major deciding factor for opportunist consumers, 31 percent of whom buy food on sale without considering their nutritional value compared with 18 percent of people who eat calculated meals, “planners.” The availability of coupons and discounts influence food purchasing decisions for one-third of opportunists, versus 25 percent of planners. While IRI found planners and opportunists shop most channels at the same frequency, the dollar store channel had a 14 percent share of shopping trips among opportunists, and a nine percent share among planners.
Opportunists aren’t the only category seeking convenience, however. The NPD Group, Inc. Chief Industry Analyst and Vice-President Harry Balzer tells Candy & Snack TODAY mothers are seeking convenience when packing their children’s lunches.
“Kids are not snacking more at school, rather more importantly, their lunches are being loaded with snacks,” Balzer says. “A granola bar can be breakfast. For lunch, potato chips are about the easiest side dish you can make. That lunch bag is really a reflection of what’s going on in the entire country — we're shifting more toward convenience.”
Similar to Balzer’s analysis, IRI finds “traditional snacks such as yogurt and cheese sticks are regularly consumed as meals. Soup, hamburgers and pizza are likewise eaten as snacks.”