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More Snacking Creates New Meal Occasion

DALLAS — Snacking is bigger than ever, accounting for nearly half (48%) of all eating occasions in the U.S., according to the Hartman Group.

“Snacking has become as culturally relevant to consumers as mealtime,” Harvey Hartman, the Bellevue, Wash., research firm’s founder and chief executive officer, said Monday in a session at FMI2012 here. “In many cases, snacking is a meal.”

Snacking frequency has nearly doubled since 1977, so much so that it has shaped what’s being called the “fourth dinner,” the meal occasion that occurs between midnight and 4 a.m. The rise in snacking is one of many changing consumer eating habits, flavor preferences and shopping behaviors that brand marketers need to understand if they want to compete in the new economy, Hartman said in a session called “Challenging Consumer Financial Realities = In-Store Opportunities.”

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