Lockdown and Snack Up: How UK Consumers’ Snacking Habits Have Changed This Month

The UK has been in lockdown for nearly four weeks now. We have seen extraordinary shake ups to our daily routines; a whopping 62% are working from home and regular leisure activities are completely off the table.

Today we want to focus on one particular “shake-up” and explore how our snacking habits have changed as a result of being confined to our homes with full fridges and crowded cupboards.

Nearly half of UK consumers either agree or strongly agree that they have snacked more in the past few weeks, with over-indexes amongst younger and more affluent consumers.

“The why” is relatively easy to understand:

  1. In-home snacking is a cheap treat for consumers, with individual units within take-home multipacks working out less expensive
  2. With stockpiled cupboards, snacks are more accessible in the home, meaning there’s no need to venture out to satisfy a craving
  3. Food offers moments of pleasure during days at home which are more static than usual

However, what’s even more interesting to analyse is “the what”.

In recent years there’s been an immense focus on health. Consumer-led market innovation has flooded the snacking category and brought once niche health-led diets, such as high-protein and plant-based, to the front of operator and retailer shelves.

During lockdown health intentions still ring true; three in five consumers agree or strongly agree with the statement “I am trying to make healthy decisions when it comes to snacking”, but what’s the reality? Referring to HIM’s Healthy Snacking report, we can see that only one of the top 10 snack products considered ‘healthy’ by consumers -  fruit - makes it into the top 5 most consumed snacks during lockdown.

This does of course hide some over-indexes amongst specific demographic groups, such as cereal and protein bars for younger consumers and yoghurt for older age groups, but generally it is treat-led categories that top the list.

So, should convenience retailers de-prioritise healthier snacking categories? Certainly not in the long run. Lockdown  is not likely to undo an attitudinal shift that has been evolving for many years.

The short term deserves greater consideration, but the answer should still be no. Whilst treat is winning, health intentions are still high and so retailers must still offer these choices. However, with overall increased snack consumption, retailers may well find themselves needing to restock snacking shelves more often during lockdown, especially for treat-led SKUs with higher consumption rates. These categories are often sold individually in convenience, but as top up increases its share of all missions and frequency falls during this period, we expect to see a greater skew towards multipacks.


Insight reports featured in this article

UK Recovery Report 2020

Business implications for grocery and hospitality market stakeholders


Your question, our expertise

Using our Channel Pulse data, we are able to answer your shopper and consumer trends questions across all UK food and drink channels. Submit your question here and one of our experts will be in touch to help you answer it.