Kiwi snacking habits revealed

Saturday, 6 February 2016 - 12:58pm

A recent report conducted by market research company Nielsen shows that we are a nation of ‘snackers’ with 97% of Kiwis regularly consuming snack foods.

The good news is that fresh fruit was the ‘winner’ in terms of snack foods with 69% of respondents having eaten fresh fruit as a snack in the past month. However, both chocolate and potato chips were not far behind with 67% and 62% respectively.

While it’s positive that fresh fruit came out on top, the data only shows that respondents ate fruit within the past 30 days but now how often. We know from the latest National Nutrition Surveys that only 60% of adults and 43% of children get their recommended 2+ serves of fruit each day! It was however positive that 1 in 5 chose fruit as their ‘first choice of snack’.

Similar snacking habits are seen in Australia with 96% of Australians regular consuming snack foods. While it may be good news that we beat the Aussies on the fresh fruit consumption with our 67% versus their 64% - unfortunately we also won the pie consumption contest with 21% of Kiwis having eaten a meat pie as a snack in the past month compared to 18% of Australians.

The reason why people snack is to ‘satisfy

hunger between meals’ as cited by 82% of respondents who ate snack foods. But while snacks are seen as ‘in between meals options’, it may be surprising that one third (34%) of respondents ate a snack because they skipped breakfast, nearly half (45%) had a snack as a substitute for lunch, and another quarter (27%) chose a snack instead of a dinner. This is concerning as among the top 10 snacks, chocolate, potato chips and cookies are clearly not great alternatives to a proper meal.

Snacking is a multi-million dollar industry with Kiwis spending $900 million annually on snack foods – with a 4% increase each year. The bulk of dollars spent on snack foods is likely not on wholefoods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds – but rather on convenient pre-packaged, processed foods. Food manufacturers cleverly make an array of products to suit the increasingly health conscious and busy on-the-go Kiwi lifestyles. The Nielsen report also looked into which health attributes we Kiwis look for when buying snacks. The most common aspects rated as ‘very important’ by respondents were: ‘low sugar’ or ‘sugar free’ (28%), followed by ‘natural flavours’ (26%), ‘GMO free’ (26%), ‘no artificial colours (25%) or flavours (25%)’, ‘low fat’ (20%) and ‘gluten free’ (7%). These ‘health attributes’ can be health halos because while the product may be a better alternative to other products, it may not mean that it’s actually a healthy choice!

The key message here is that snacking is perfectly OK – but remember that snacks are meant to be for satisfying hunger in between meals - and not as a meal replacement. A snack should be nutritious and filling; a good snack size for most people is around 200 calories – which rules out many processed options including cookies, potato chips, chocolate and meat pies. Beware of health claims on snack products – if in doubt, check the nutrition label. In most cases, whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, low fat dairy, wholegrains, nuts and seeds will be the best choice.

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