Top drivers of U.S. consumers' snack preferences

A survey from Alpha-Diver look at the five key drivers of snack preferences.
The snack 50 psych pulse

As the official summertime snack eating season commences, Neuroscience-based consumer insights market research firm Alpha-Diver sought to answer the why behind consumers’ snack purchases.

As reported by CSNC's U.S.-based sister publication, Convenience Store News, "The Snack 50 Psych Pulse" unveils the first psychology-based snack brand rankings and offers insight as to what kind of snacker consumers are, and what affinities determine which brands are winning consumers over.

[Read more: "C-Store IQ National Shopper Study 2023"]

"While previous snack food rankings have been based on popularity polls, sales volume or reviewer critiques, the 'Snack 50 Psych Pulse' is the first ranking of brands based on the WHY's of consumer behavior," said Alpha-Diver CEO Hunter Thurman. "The Snack 50 provides diagnostics from a consumer perspective of brand performance, including brand affinity, brand usage momentum and brand growth paths."

The leading snack brands ranked via Alpha-Diver's proprietary Psych Pulse composite score of key dimensions include behaviour (consumption routines), emotion (consumer enthusiasm) and trajectory (product usage momentum).

The top 10 leading snack brands among U.S. consumers are:

  1. Reese's
  2. Lay's
  3. Great Value
  4. Hershey's
  5. M&M's
  6. Doritos
  7. Oreo
  8. Cheetos
  9. Snickers
  10. Kit Kat

Alpha-Diver found psychological differences across generations and genders relative to snack choices, such as:

  • The top-ranking category among women is potato chips and is chocolate candy among men.
  • Reese's is the top-ranked brand among the general population, but Oreo is top-ranked among Generation Z (for whom Reese's slips out of the top five).
  • Hispanic consumers favour Doritos, with Reese's slipping out of the top five among this cohort.
  • Lay's ranks in the top five among all demographic cohorts, and is ranked first among younger baby boomers. Older boomers favour Hershey's chocolate.
  • Great Value emerges as the strongest snacking store brand, including strong performance among both younger and older millennials.

The study revealed four leading dimensions that determine which brands are winning the hearts, and wallets, of consumers. They are:

  1. Rational: Product provides options that make rational sense. Top performers in order are Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps, Nutri-Grain and Skinny Pop Popcorn.
  2. Experiential: Brands provide new sensory experiences. The top performers are Sour Patch Kids, Starburst and Cape Cod.
  3. Tribal: Brands provide social connection. The top performers are Aldi brands, Great Value brands and Lay's.
  4. Instinctual: These are feel-good, impulse-driven brands. The top performers are Slim Jim, Jack Links and Sour Patch Kids. 

Lastly, The Snack 50 Psych Pulse explored five key barriers to consumers' purchase behaviour:

  • Price: Does the brand offer good value?
  • Time: Does the brand fit daily life routines?
  • Social: Is the brand socially endorsed/acceptable to one's peers?
  • Physical: Does the brand carry any negative connotations regarding consumer feelings?
  • Emotional: Does the brand carry any fear of disappointment?

"One compelling insight relates to the role of store brands, or private labels. While most teams still assume they're growing due to price trade-downs, this study reveals a much more strategic role store brands are playing in fuelling consumers' emotional needs," added Thurman.

[Read more: "People still love snacking"]

The Snack 50 list covers brands across 12 categories that drive $50 billion in annual sales. The rankings are based on the psychology of 1,482 respondents, who were surveyed in March. The study includes 51 percent female, 49 percent male, average age 45, with a median income of $50,000. The study was conducted in partnership with The Food Institute, a leading food industry media company.

The complete Snack 50 list and top-line report is available here.

Alpha-Diver is a market research firm that applies neuroscience to understand marketplace behavior more deeply. The firm’s neuroscientists and strategists work with leading brands, retailers and the Wall Street analyst community to explain, measure and predict consumer behavior. Clients include McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Kellanova, among others.

This article originally appeared on the CSNews website in the U.S.  

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