If you run a concession stand – especially at a major stadium – knowing what snacks to have in stock can be the deciding factor between high sales and smiling faces or low sales and frowns. Even though at the end of the day it’s just snacks, putting data behind your concession snacks decisions can help you make better business decisions.

Concession Snacks: When, Why, and What People are Snacking On

To snack or not to snack is not really the question. Snacking is essentially a foregone conclusion, with almost half of US consumers snacking at least three times per day. Not to mention at a stadium where you can see just about everyone with concession snacks.

Answering when, why and most importantly – what – people are snacking on can change lackluster concession sales into big money. After all, the snack food industry generates $11 billion in US tax revenue and represents 27% of all food and beverage sales in the US with snack and snack adjacent sales totaling $186.4 billion, according to SNAC International’s 2023 State of the Industry Report. 

The industry also employs 395,000 individuals and records $15 billion in annual wages. 

When to snack 

Morning and late evening are seeing the largest growth in terms of snacking, but afternoon is the most popular time with 66% of people saying that’s when they snack, according to Circana, which helped bring together the State of the Industry report. The next most popular is the afternoon with 59% preferring that time period. 

Snacks are also more commonly replacing meals. More than half of people reported that their households make a meal out of snacks at least weekly, according to the 2022 State of Snacking Report by Mondelez International. 

Morning snack consumption, defined as 6 to 10 a.m., has grown 42%, Mondelez said. Early morning snacking is also on the rise, with 24% of consumers saying they eat a snack before breakfast, an increase from 19% in 2020. 

Why to snack 

Morning snacking is motivated by the convenience factor, with 65% saying it’s easier to grab a quick snack at the time of day than a full meal, the Mondelez report found. 

People also snack to connect with others, offering routine moments of togetherness. Seven in 10 consumers said their households enjoy a snack together at least on a weekly basis. 

Emotions also play a role, with 64% of consumers agreeing that “in tough times, snacks are the one thing I can count on.” Additionally, six in 10 believe snacking takes their mind off the issues of the world. 

Pampering or indulging themselves also plays a big role in snacking. According to the Mondelez study, 78% said they regularly snack to pamper or reward themselves while 77% do so for a sense of comfort. Three in four agree that “these days, it’s more important than ever to have moments of indulgency in the day” and 73% agreed that “tough times call for delicious snacks.” 

At the same time, less than half, about 46%, said they feel guilty while enjoying an indulgent snack or treat. 

Circana found that 54% of consumers say snacks are an important part of a healthy eating plan throughout the day while 66% snack to fuel the day. 

What to snack 

When choosing a snack, more than half – 57% to be exact – opt for a savory snack, which represents $58.3 billion in sales, according to SNAC International. Savory snacks include hot, salty and meat snacks and lunch box-compatible snacks. 

Sweet snacks (including cookies, bars, sweet cups, fruit snacks and dried fruit) represent $30.4 billion in sales. 

Overwhelmingly, about 88% of people, say flavor is the most important for making snack choices. Consumers are devoted to their favorite snacks, with 6 in 10 going out of their way to find it while 63% would pay extra to bring back favorite childhood snack brands, Mondelez found. 

The top 10 snacks according to Circana, based on dollar sales, include cookies ($10.5 billion); crackers ($8.5 billion); potato chips ($7.8 billion); bars ($6.6 billion); other salted snacks ($6.4 billion); tortilla chips ($6.1 billion); snacks/nuts/seeds/corn nuts ($4.7 billion); cheese snacks ($2.6 billion); dried meat snacks ($2.5 billion); and pretzels ($1.8 billion). 

New flavors, textures and innovation are driving continued growth in non-chocolate and tortilla chips, Circana said. We imagine we’ll start seeing more variety when it comes to concession snacks. 

Potato chips saw sales grow 14.5% in 2022. Consumers show a preference for familiar flavors, but 70% said they were excited to try new flavors or variations in 2023 than in previous years. 

Tortillas chips also increased in popularity with 16.6% growth in 2022. Flavors from top selling brands are so popular that they are crossing into other snack categories, such as Doritos flavored popcorn and dips. 

Although 11th on the list of top snacks with $1.7 billion in sales, popcorn brands reported significant sales increase in 2022, Circana said. Nine out of 10 brands saw sales increase with 7 out of 10 experiencing a double-digit increase. 

Flavored pretzels are seeing a rise in popularity with 17.5% growth in dollar sales and 2.3% growth in unit sales. Inspiration for new flavors is coming from around the world, Circana said, as well as crossovers from other brands. 

Cracker offerings are expanding with varieties that are gluten-free, vegan and plant-based. Mashups, new flavors and limited time offers are keeping consumers interested, Circana said. Dollar sales were up 12.8% while unit sales dropped 4%. 

Understanding when, why, and what concession snacks people enjoy will help you make the best decisions to satisfy your bottom line. 

If you need assistance with staffing your concession stand (or other facility positions), contact ConcessionStaff today.