Today’s on-the-go lifestyles have fundamentally changed how Americans eat. Grab-and-go meals and snacks are a way to meet consumers’ needs for convenience, portability, and nutrition—whether at work, at the gym, or in the car. Learn which types of foods, packaging, and nutritional benefits are attracting the attention of today's grab-and-go consumer.
The Grab-and-Go Consumer
Grab-and-go foods and beverages are a way of life for an increasing number of Americans. Drivers include on-the-go lifestyles that require portable meals and snacks, as well as the convenience of ready-to-eat and heat-and-eat foods. In addition, the rise in single-person households (particularly among Millennials) and the decline in sit-down family meals have contributed to the practice of eating meals alone, whenever and wherever it's convenient.
As a result of these new eating patterns, the line between meals and snacks is blurring. Three square meals a day has given way to an average of six eating occasions per day. According to the Hartman Group, 91% of Americans snack multiple times a day, and snacking accounts for 50% of all eatings.1 The NPD Group reports that 24% of snack food eatings are during main meals—a trend driven by Gen Zs and Millennials.2
Popular Grab-and-Go Products
Grab-and-go products can be shelf-stable, fresh, or frozen and range from soup cups to fresh salad bowls to frozen handheld meals like breakfast sandwiches. Popular grab-and-go products include:
- Chips, crackers, and cookies
- Trail mix and nut packs
- Roasted bean snacks
- Granola bars, nut bars, and nutrition bars
- Hummus or cheese dip with pretzels or crackers
- Protein packs with jerky, nuts, and dried fruit
- Squeezable fruits and nut butters
- Cereal and oatmeal cups
- Soup cups
- Fresh fruit cups and sliced produce snack packs
- Deli and produce department prepared meals
- String cheese
- Frozen wraps, burritos, sandwiches, and savory pastries
- RTD single-serve beverages and drinkable soups
Designing for Grab-and-Go
Packaging, marketing copy, and nutrition labels are key elements to consider before launching a grab-and-go product or repositioning as grab-and-go.
Packaging material, closures, size, and weight become especially important considerations for grab-and-go products. Packaging should be small, lightweight, and portable, and ideally, contain a single serving. Popular containers and closures include cups with peelable lids, especially for yogurts, soup cups, and oatmeal cups. Even cookies and crackers can be packaged in cups to make them cupholder friendly.
Easy tear pouches work well for products like trail mix and squeezable nut butters. When a product contains more than one serving, resealable packaging (like a ziplock pouch) is key. Grab-and-go beverages with more than one serving should be in bottles to allow for resealing.
Pack size should be guided by the type of retail outlet, e.g., single-serve packages for convenience stores and multi-packs of single-serves for club stores. Variety packs, especially for bars and chips, are increasingly popular at supermarkets.
2) Marketing Copy
Clear communication can help to identify the product as grab-and-go. Simplified language is often necessary due to the smaller principal display panel. Claims being used in the market include:
- Snack size
- Snack packs
- Lunch packs
- Lunchbox ready
Nutrition plays an important role in grab-and-go products, with the top concerns being satiety and calorie control. Increasingly, consumers expect their grab-and-go snacks to provide satiety and are checking nutrition labels for nutrients like protein and fiber. This becomes especially important when snacks are used to replace meals. Jerky, yogurt, nut snacks, protein bars, and RTD protein beverages deliver on protein, whereas oatmeal cups, cereal cups, and fiber bars can provide high amounts of fiber.
Another consumer segment is focused on calorie and portion control. These consumers are checking nutrition labels first for total calories. For grab-and-go snacks, formulating to achieve a consistent calorie target across the product line (e.g., 100 calorie packs) is a way to build trust and loyalty among calorie-conscious consumers.
Since our busy lifestyles show no signs of slowing down, the future looks bright for grab-and-go foods and beverages. The right choices in packaging, marketing copy, and nutrition can turn virtually any product into a grab-and-go.
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1. Hartman Group. (2016). The Future of Snacking 2016. Retrieved from http://store.hartman-group.com/content/Future-of-Snacking-2016-About-Report.pdf
2. NPD Group. (2017). Snack Foods Are Increasingly Consumed at Main Meals and Gen Zs and Millennials Will Drive This Trend Over the Next Decade. Retrieved from https://www.npd.com/wps/portal/npd/us/news/press-releases/2017/snack-foods-are-increasingly-consumed-at-main-meals-and-gen-zs-and-millennials-will-drive-this-trend-over-the-next-decade/