Changing US consumption patterns are forcing big change in the food industry. Millennials don’t tend to eat three square meals a day like their parents. Millennials graze, often eating just one meal a day, supplemented with three to four nutritious snacks. This new way of eating favours small local food companies whose brands emphasise quality ingredients and sell through non-traditional channels with higher ‘snack occasion’ penetration.
Large companies are slowly responding. Some snacking leaders are launching new products, such as plant-based chips and nut snacks and repositioning ad campaigns to stress ingredient quality. Other companies have resorted to small bolt-on acquisitions to meet these consumer demands. However, most large-scale food companies acknowledge their inherent disadvantages on this new playing field and are focusing more on margin management to grow earnings. Some also view large-scale consolidation as a way to facilitate this margin strategy. Time will tell if these changes are durable and if larger snack manufacturers can adapt.
David Sealy, The Boston Company Asset Management, a BNY Mellon Company