GENERATION Y: NO SLACKERS AS SNACKERS

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- With their love for snacks, their propensity to spend money and their teeming numbers, Generation Y is the single largest marketing age group out there, say consultants with Promar International, a market-driven consultancy here.Snacking is a way of life for Gen Y, born from roughly 1980 to 1995, and this group has decades more marketing potential ahead of them than the baby boomers,

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- With their love for snacks, their propensity to spend money and their teeming numbers, Generation Y is the single largest marketing age group out there, say consultants with Promar International, a market-driven consultancy here.

Snacking is a way of life for Gen Y, born from roughly 1980 to 1995, and this group has decades more marketing potential ahead of them than the baby boomers, Promar International says in a recent study. The group's actual numbers total between 60 and 70 million, second only to the baby boomers in sheer numbers.

The new study, called "Generation Y: Winning Snack Strategies," analyzes young Americans and how they interact with snack foods, and it says it offers strategies to help food manufacturers and retailers succeed with these critical customers for whom snacking is a way of life.

Gen-Yers engage in snacking more than any other type of eating. Snacks represent 35% of all of their eating occasions, and 45% of all purchase occasions, as well as the vast majority of their food-purchase occasions, according to Promar. In snacking, members of Gen Y have broader, more diverse tastes. Ethnically, they are more diverse than previous generations.

On average, the study says, Americans eat 1.6 snacks per day. For Gen-Yers, it's more like two or more a day, according to surveys cited by Promar.

Fifty-eight percent of Gen-Yers eat at least four times a day, while 42% eat five or more times per day, with most snack occasions occurring between 2 and 5 p.m.

The changing home life and economic experiences shaping Gen Y consumer behavior has shown up in the snack-food market more than in any other food sector, the study says. As a food category that is relatively low cost and requires little cooking, snacks are particularly influenced by the preferences of Gen-Yers, and represent a major source of their daily nutrition.

As indicated by a recent survey, sports drinks, breakfast bars and salty snacks are items over which Gen-Yers hold the most influence when it comes to home grocery shopping.

"The [snack] category continues to grow, and manufacturers are introducing new products all the time," said Cindy Breslin, a spokeswoman for Price Chopper, Schenectady, N.Y. Breslin could not be specific on the age of Price Chopper customers who buy snacks, since the frequent shopper card tracks household purchases as a whole.

But, she said, "we're always growing and expanding our private-label offerings, and that includes snack foods."

Karen Ramos, spokeswoman for the Jewel-Osco division of Albertson's in Chicago, said the assortment of private-label products made for Jewel is constantly being discussed and updated. "We provide feedback to manufacturers through their representatives that call on us. We also look to source private-label products if a new product comes on the market that is popular."