Any snack that becomes popular has to taste great. But, surprisingly, flavor is not the number one driver of snack choices. In fact, it is simply one of many that factor into snack decisions.
We at Symrise found this out for ourselves, when we conducted a survey on snacking habits of kids aged 6 to 12, including a wide range of ethnographic groups. We discovered that snack choices are driven but no fewer than 12 core attributes, oriented around the snack brand’s reputation, social perception, presentation, and a wide range of other factors. Not all of these are equally important – but each exerts its own influence when it comes time to reach for a snack.
Here is a summary of these 12 key drivers, along with some statistics highlighting the impact each has on snack choices.
Social and Fun
In a recent survey, snacks with high social value had a 94 percent correlation with children’s affinity – stronger than any other attribute. Fun comes in at a close second with a 91 percent correlation. The easier a snack is to share, and the more fun kids have while sharing it, the more likely they are to reach for it in the aisle. It can be difficult to pin down exactly what “social” means, because this is different for every snack, though it frequently means sharable. But as long as a snack brings other children running for a handful, it is likely to rank near the top of any go-to snack list.
Flavor and Reputation
It is no surprise that great taste ranks highly, with a strong 91 percent affinity correlation. But children also value quality and well-known brands. Snacks perceived as being of high quality ranked 88 percent on the affinity meter, while snacks with a strong heritage – familiarity built up over children’s and parents’ lifetimes – scored 85 percent. If a snack feels exciting, it also has a high likelihood of becoming popular.
The Right Fit
For many families, the most appealing brands are those that fit into everyone’s daily routine. When a snack is perceived as allowed, age-appropriate and shareable with the family, parents and siblings tend to join in too – which makes children and parents more likely to reach for the snack again during family time. All three of these attributes have around 80 percent correlation with affinity.
Not all drivers of snack choice are related to the snack itself. A great website has a 74 percent correlation with affinity, while snacks with good-looking packaging scored a 70 percent correlation. While neither of these factors will outrank taste or shareability, they can both help nudge a snack over the line and into the shopping cart if it is somewhat lacking in other areas.
Above all else, children are seeking fun, social snack brands. They want great taste, and appreciate high-quality brands that have been around for a while. Allowed, age-appropriate brands that can be shared with the family are highly appealing. And of course, excitement, coolness and good looks all influence snack choice.
It is also worth noting that, while many parents highly value healthiness in their snack purchases, health correlates negatively with children’s snack brand preferences. This is not to suggest that popular snacks cannot be healthy, but rather that healthiness is one of the poorest selling points for children.