The global snack business reached some $374 billion globally in March 2014

The global snack business reached some $374 billion globally in March 2014, according to research by Nielsen, with sales growing more than two times faster in developing regions than in developed markets. Consumer preferences naturally vary by region, as shown in the chart. North America is predominantly a savory-snack market, while Europe, Latin America and the Middle East/Africa are largely sweet. Asia Pacific consumers tend to buy mostly refrigerated snacks and are least prone to pick salty snacks.

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When consumers were asked to choose a specific snack above all others from 47 options, fresh fruit came in first with 18 percent, followed by chocolate at 15 percent—though as Nielsen notes, consumers often say and do different things. Nielsen also reports that in its 60-country survey, 45 percent of respondents rated “all natural” as a very important quality in snacks, while 31 percent cited protein content.

“How we snack as a society is changing,” Nielsen’s James Russo told USA Today. “Snacks are increasingly meal replacements.” Among other things, this shift has given rise to popular snack subscription services like the European hit Graze and natural-snacks company NatureBox in the U.S. “If I’m a big food company,” noted Russo, “I have to think about how to make, market or repurpose products to a consumer who wants to eat on the go, and is using snacks as meals.”

Image: Courtesy of NatureBox