Not all salty snackers look like Homer Simpson

Not all salty snackers look like Homer Simpson

Nearly everybody eats salty snacks at one time or another.  More than 90% of households in the country report using a salty snack in the past 30 days.  Potato chips are eaten by 85% of American households.  Corn/tortilla chips/cheese snacks rank next in popularity (72% of households), followed by popcorn products (71%) and pretzels (55%).

Although salty snacks are a ubiquitous part of American diets, some of us crave salty snacks much more than others do.  There are 50 million Americans who say they often snack between meals and cite salty snacks as their favorite snack.  Frequent snackers who prefer salty snacks comprise 34% of all frequent snackers and 22% of the adult population as a whole.

Not all frequent salty snackers, though, look like Homer Simpson.  A new report from Packaged Facts, Salty Snacks in the U.S., identifies a cadre of 14.2 million “healthy” salty snackers.  These frequent snackers cite salty snacks as their favorite snack but also claim that they “usually only snack on healthy foods.”  These frequent salty snackers don’t see a conflict between craving salty snacks and pursuing a healthy snacking diet.

There is a wide divide between frequent salty snackers who claim to usually only snack on healthy foods and those who do not.  Compared to other salty snackers, these “healthy” salty snackers are far more likely to be female, multicultural, and college-educated consumers living in the largest urban areas. 

Frequent salty snackers who usually only snack on healthy foods are not couch potatoes.  “Healthy” salty snackers are in much better physical shape than other Americans.  More than six in ten (63%) exercised regularly in the past 12 months, compared to 45% of other frequent salty snackers and 52% of frequent snackers who don’t prefer salty snacks.  They also are much more likely to engage in fitness activities such as walking, jogging and using a cardio machine.

This healthy core of salty snackers provides a significant base of support for marketers rolling out healthy-ingredient products in the salty snack category.  Healthy salty snackers help ensure that marketers of ready-to-eat popcorn merging the healthy, low-calorie image of popcorn with indulgent flavors and ingredients and positioning the product as a crunchy and healthy alternative to chips will find continuing success in the marketplace.

Potatoes and corn, once rulers of the salty snack world, now share supermarket aisles with chips and other kinds of snacks made from a full complement of vegetables and legumes including beans, lentils, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, snap peas, peas, carrots, rice, soy, seaweed, cucumbers (pickles), kale and cabbage (kimchi).  Packaged Facts expects that innovative marketers will continue to thrive by offering “healthy” salty snackers an even wider range of vegetable-based salty snacks.