More people are snacking now more than ever — and that's a promising sign if you're a global snack food giant like Mondelez International (MDLZ).
The parent company of Oreo, Sour Patch Kids and many other global and local brands is hoping to turn the trend to its advantage.
According to a Harris Poll survey recently commissioned by Mondelez, snacking is on the rise, especially among millennials. The poll questioned more than 6,000 adults 18 and older across the globe, finding that 6 out of 10 preferred snacks to more substantial meals. For millennials, that ratio was even higher, at 7 out of 10.
“The behavior of snacking is growing. If you take an average adult around the world now, he or she is having more snacks than full meals on a given day,” Mondelez CEO Dirk Van de Put told Yahoo Finance in an exclusive interview.
Snacking is an estimated $1.2 trillion industry, with 75% of the world's consumers partaking. Mondelez, which has well-known billion-dollar global brands, also leverages its portfolio of local brands as part of its broader strategy to capture stomach share.
According to Van de Put, snacks are “much more than about eating. It's about identity. It's about all cultural heritage.”
What’s more, consumers are becoming more aware of the role food plays in their health. According to Van de Put, there’s still a market for those indulgences — even as people relate snack food to their weight and well-being.
“What we've seen in the in this study is that yes people do link snacking to health and wellness, but at the same time almost 80% of people are aware that they need to balance it with more indulgent moments, because they know it gives them a break, it energizes them, it gives them a little boost,” the CEO said.
“And so, I think what we're trying to do is offer the consumer a mixture, trying to offer the consumer the right snack for the right moment, which could be a very health-oriented snack... but it could also be a piece of chocolate or a nice Tate's cookie,” he added.
‘Not a big cost’
Still, Van de Put stated that the consumer is not separated into groups that eat healthy all the time and others that don’t. “They mix it up all the time,” he said.
One nation that’s really focused on snacking for the particular health aspects is China, Van de Put explained.
“This whole relationship between snacks and health and well being and that, of course, leads to a big market and the consumer is snacking more,” he added. “And the consumer base is growing there, so that is there is really what's going on.”
For Mondelez core markets, which include chocolate, biscuits, candy, and gum, the growth is not as high as typical Chinese snacks. However, within those categories, the company is “significantly increasing” its market share, Van de Put said.
There’s also an opportunity to continue to expand in physical stores and grow through e-commerce. The CEO also wasn’t concerned about snack food sales falling prey to fears of a slowdown.
"I would say [snacking] is a bit resistant to any recession because it's not a big cost," Van de Put said. "It's something that is sort of a break if you are feeling a little bit stressed."
For example, during the last quarter amid the Brexit drama, chocolate sales in the U.K. "went through the roof” he said.
"I wouldn't say there is a complete opposite, but we are resistant to recessions," he added.
Julia La Roche is a Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.