Thoughts 04.07.13

Snacking on Snacking: Are our eating habits showing us how to advertise?

With our launch campaign for on-the-go protein drink Upbeat now out in the world, our Head of Planning, David Howard, looks at how our on-the-go eating habits could be an indicator as to how we’ll consume brand messages in the future.

In recent years the number of snack products on the market has increased dramatically. According to a report from financial services provider Rabobank Group at the end of last year, the US snack bar market has grown at twice the rate of other snack foods over the past ten years and nearly three times the rate of the overall packaged food sector. A possible explanation for this growth comes from Lu Ann Williams, Head of Research at Innova Market Insights, who stated that “nearly 60% of snack launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in 2011 had a health positioning of some kind”. Whilst in the past, three square meals was the order of the day and most ready-to-eat packaged foods were deemed unhealthy, the advent of ‘healthy’ snacks has meant that we can now eat on the go without having to compromise on the quality of our food intake. Arguably, we are a generation of consumers that are becoming ever more familiar with the concept of being able to have exactly what we want, whenever we want it. Should we choose to, we can now go about our busy lives and eat healthily at the same time. But if our eating habits are evolving due to 21st century concerns, what else could be changing? If snacking has been dubbed ‘the future of eating’ could it also be showing us how we’ll consume brand messages in the future as well?

While the parallels between our eating habits and the way we interact with brands may seem a little obscure at first, there’s a definite shared theme between the two: technological advances. Thanks to technology, we can now do almost everything from almost anywhere, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We can check emails in the bath, watch films on the train, and find out breaking news as we wait for the bus. As technology has enabled us to do things on the go, we’ve come to expect to do most things that way, from the way we eat to the way we consume content. In fact, we have become a society obsessed with content, and instead of just consuming it in a three-meals-a-day manner, we now snack on it across various mediums and devices. With over 1 billion smartphones now in use, we have devices that lend themselves perfectly to bite-size pieces of entertainment or interaction, and it’s that ‘little and often’ aspect that naturally sits at the heart of snacking. This isn’t to say that the content equivalent of the main meal is dead however. With the average Briton now watching more than 4 hours of TV a day (which is up on the 2006 average of 3 1/2 hours) we are a society that is developing a very large stomach.

With a breadth of ways in which to now talk to consumers, the brands that create engaging content strategies that add value wherever they live are the ones that will be rewarded with not just engaged consumers, but brand advocates. Whether it be a tweet, a game, a film, or even a quick response ad, (Oreo do this better than most) interesting content, no matter how minute, can provide the bite-sized snacks that keep brands and consumers connected. If we start drawing parallels between brand communications and our eating habits, then it all comes down to two simple factors. Does it taste nice, and does it sustain us? Provide empty calories and discerning consumers will soon look elsewhere. But provide rich content that entertains (tastes good) or informs (sustains us) and consumers will dine out on you time and time again.

This article was published at The Wall. Download a PDF of the article at