According to Food Manufacturing and the Associated Press, America’s grazing habits seem to be turning everything snack-sized, from peanut butter to SPAM.

Snacks now account for half of all eating occasions, says food industry consultancy the Hartman Group. We like things that can substitute for meals, that don’t require assembly, and that we can carry around with us.

Demand for more protein- and fiber-filled snacks is leading some companies to experiment with ingredients like chickpeas, lentils, or quinoa. Snacks are also more indifferent to daily routines, which means a Pop-Tart or bowl of cereal might not be just for breakfast anymore.

Registered dietician Claudia Zapata notes that snacking habits can encourage a lot of mindless eating and that people should discern whether they’re truly hungry before reaching for another snack. Packaging, too, can send mixed signals. A canister of Skippy P.B. Bites from Hormel officially contains six servings, but “unfortunately,” says Hormel president Jim Snee, “it can end up being [a single snack].”

It’s unclear whether efforts to court snackers will remain profitable in the long term, but for now, companies seem to be preparing for the finger-food revolution, creating “ergonomically designed pouches” and mixes perfect for “one-handed eating.” Even meats are snackable treats that Hillshire Snacking GM Jeff Caswell notes consumers don’t mind eating with their hands.

Source: Food Manufacturing. Snacks Nation: Food Makers Turning Everything Into Snacks

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