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What is the Snack Food Industry?

By Debra Durkee
Updated May 16, 2024
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The snack food industry is made up of manufacturers and suppliers of snack foods. These snack foods are generally understood to be foods that do not make up a component of a main, necessary meal. In addition to foods, the manufacture of drinks such as soda and energy drinks also fall under the umbrella of the snack food industry.

The snack food industry is a worldwide organization of manufacturers and suppliers. Products created by these companies include everything from potato chips and peanuts to fruit snacks, cookies, cakes, dried meat products, and candy, and vary greatly by country. Snack foods can come in a variety of forms, including frozen foods, dried products, and even liquids.

The industry is a large one, and includes everyone involved in the process of making and distributing these foods. From individuals who develop new types of food to manufacturing plants, distributors, and those who supply the raw ingredients, the snack food industry contains many individuals and a wide variety of occupations. The industry is regulated by a number of government organizations, also depending on which country the businesses are located in.

Many companies in the industry have a number of subsidiaries. One company can have different branches that make candy, cookies, crackers, or soft drinks. Highly competitive, members of the snack food industry rely heavily on marketing and advertising because their products are often more of an impulse purchase than a necessary one.

As the snack food industry involves many different elements, it is typically regulated not only by government organizations that maintain food standards, but also those who monitor trade, labor, and agriculture. Within the industry, there are other organizations that help monitor itself. These organizations typically help in the creation of healthier snacks, as well as promoting awareness about the dangers of consuming too much of an unhealthy thing. The social responsibility of the snack food industry has become an important concern.

The industry typically keeps an eye on how foods are trending in order to determine the most effective way to market its products and self. What the market desires often fluctuates; while cookies and candy can be popular one year, the following year may show more of a trend toward healthier snacks such as granola, yogurt, and dried fruits. Trends also vary among age groups, and the snack food industry can cater to the tastes and snack habits of children and adults.

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Discussion Comments

By Monika — On Feb 23, 2012

I personally don't buy very much snack food at all. I was raised by a very health conscious mother, and she taught me from a young age about healthy eating. I feel very lucky!

I never, ever buy or drink soda. It's horrible for you. I would say the only snack food industry products I do buy are crackers, and very occasionally some cookies.

If I want to snack, I usually snack on things like yogurt, bananas, cherry tomatoes, vegetable chips, or dried fruit. There are a lot of healthy snack options out there if you can tear yourself away from the unhealthy snack food industry products.

By SZapper — On Feb 23, 2012

@JaneAir - That's a pretty balanced way of looking at it. However, I don't exactly agree. Yes, the snack food processing industry doesn't force people to buy their food. But it certainly coerces people to do so!

Think of all the commercials we're inundated with every single day. No one is immune to all that marketing! Also, a lot of snacks claim to be healthy and low fat. Many people aren't that educated about nutrition, and might actually think they're making a healthy choice about their diet.

By JaneAir — On Feb 22, 2012

A lot of people really vilify the snack industry. And I admit, I'm not the biggest fan myself of this kind of food myself. However, I feel like everyone is ultimately responsible for their own dietary choices. We all know that certain foods (over-processed food that's high in sugar and fat) are bad for us. No one makes people buy and eat snack food, they do it voluntarily.

Also, when I was reading through this article, I was struck by the amount of food industry jobs the snack food industry probably provides. If you think about the amount of people employed in this industry is probably staggering.

So I guess I have a love/hate relationship with the snack food industry. Their food isn't healthy, but they provide jobs.

By Perdido — On Feb 21, 2012

Packaging really helps sell snack foods. Graphic design is a big part of the snack food industry. I used to design packaging for a snack company, and they were all about bright colors and noticeable text.

Also, almost all of them wanted an enticing photo of the food placed on the front of the package. Often, this photo would look even more appealing than the actual food. The text would wrap around it in a way that led consumers' eyes to it.

A large majority of the packages I designed were shiny. If you've ever thought about it, most potato chip and cookie bags sparkle like aluminum in a variety of colors. This is a marketing ploy.

By seag47 — On Feb 20, 2012

Have you ever noticed the placement of snack foods in grocery stores? Many of them are positioned where they will be most likely to catch your eye and lure you in.

Often, newly released snacks are placed on the ends of aisles, or even in the center aisle, so everyone will see them. If you happen to be hungry at all, it is likely that you will grab them.

Personally, I tend to eat when I am stressed. Since maneuvering around all those people in the grocery store stresses me out, I get hungry quickly. I fall victim to the strategically placed snacks.

By lighth0se33 — On Feb 20, 2012

@nextcorrea – I have struggled with my up and down weight for years because of foods produced by the snack food industry. I know firsthand how addictive they can be.

When I found the willpower to stick to a healthy diet for awhile, after a few weeks, I actually cried because I wanted junk food so badly. I missed the wonderfully satisfying feeling of eating a doughnut or a greasy bag of chips, and I longed for the pleasure of a caramel-filled chocolate bar.

While it does seem evil that the chemicals in our brain are altered by the wiles of the industry, it is ultimately up to us to take back control. I think that totally eliminating unhealthy snack food from our diets is not the answer, because then, we are too tempted to binge. I think that portion control is the answer.

I have found that allowing myself two small bites of chocolate or one serving of chips a day does not cause me to gain weight, nor does it keep me from losing weight, as long as I don't go over my predetermined serving size. It keeps me from giving into temptation and gorging myself, and it keeps me happy.

By orangey03 — On Feb 19, 2012

@honeybees – I often find myself drawn to the snacks at the checkout stand. I don't have kids, but I have problems keeping my own hands off of them.

I find it is best to never go shopping while hungry. If it isn't time for a full meal yet, I will have a filling snack before I go. I will eat a big banana or a whole grain English muffin to keep me from falling to temptation.

The snack food industry is so smart about putting all the gooey, chocolately goodness in a spot where you are often forced to wait in line and stare at it. It's like a last chance opportunity.

By honeybees — On Feb 19, 2012

What gets me every time are the snacks they have right by the check out stands in all the grocery stores.

I can have a full shopping cart of food and then see all these tempting snacks when I am ready to check out. This can really be a problem when you have a few kids with you.

If you let each of them pick out one snack and one beverage to go with it, that can add up to a lot of money in one shot. I think that is one of the biggest reasons I let the kids stay home with dad when I go to the store!

I know there are a lot of studies done on the food industry trends, and they always seem to have the snacks there that sell really well. You always have the common favorites like Snickers and a Hershey bar, along with some tasty new snacks to try.

And don't forget about the gum. I always carry gum with me and that alone is a big business in this industry even though it isn't considered a snack.

By sunshined — On Feb 18, 2012

@myharley - While I agree with you that the pre-packaged snack foods are convenient, they can be pretty expensive too.

When I figured out how much more I was spending on the pre-packaged foods I couldn't believe it. Now I buy snack food items in bulk and package them individually myself.

This way I am able to control the number of calories, yet save a lot of money at the same time.

Buying snacks from a vending machine is pretty much the same concept. We have vending machines at work, but I very rarely buy something from them.

The convenience is great for a lot of people, but I am too cheap to spend that much money on a few chips when I can buy a whole bag for the same price.

By jonrss — On Feb 18, 2012

I recently discovered my new favorite snack food. They are called caramel dittos and it is kind of a combination of caramel corn and Cheetos. It has the flavor of caramel corn but the crunch and substance of a Cheeto.

They are made by a popcorn company in Ohio and distributed nation wide. I came across them randomly in a store one night and now I am hooked. I have to watch myself or I could eat them everyday.

By SarahSon — On Feb 17, 2012

@tigers88 - Of all the snack food choices available, mine would have to be any kind of chips. Maybe it is the salt I crave more than anything, but I love the taste and crunchiness of chips.

When I get the munchies (which happens often), the first thing I look for is some chips to eat. Of course these make me thirsty, so I need a cold Pepsi to go along with them. Doritos are probably my overall favorite.

I don't think the food and beverage industry ever needs to worry about losing business. They can cater to those who love junk food and those who want to have healthy food and drink choices too.

Years ago who would have thought that a bottle of water would cost as much as a bottle or can of pop?

By myharley — On Feb 17, 2012

I am glad to see that many of the snack food companies are making healthier choices available.

For people who are trying to eat a healthier diet, it makes it much easier if you have choices like string cheese, nuts, yogurt and healthy snack bars to choose from.

Because so many of us eat on the run, having the pre-packaged snack foods can be a life saver. I know I pack these in my kids lunches and take them to work for myself.

I like the snack foods that are packaged with a certain number of calories. If I pick up a snack bag of crackers that I know has 100 calories, this is much better for me than mindlessly eating out of a large box of crackers.

Before I know it half of the box could be gone and I would have consumed way more calories than I intended to.

By nextcorrea — On Feb 16, 2012

What many people don't realize is that modern day snack foods are often closer to narcotics than to food. They are carefully controlled combinations of fat, salt, sugar and chemicals which have an effect on the brain not unlike drugs. You feel good when you eat them not because you are hungry or they taste good. You feel good because the food has been carefully designed to make you feel good.

This is important to realize because we have an obesity epidemic in this country. 40% of Americans are obese which is a shocking number. This is due in no small part to the snack food companies and other big food suppliers like the fast food industry. They have created a vast market of edible products that is not really food at all. It is a little bit of chemical happiness wrapped up in a bun or dipped in chocolate. It makes you feel sorry for those people who struggle to loose weight.

By tigers88 — On Feb 16, 2012

So what is you guy's favorite kind of snack food? Be honest, everyone has one, even the people who like to pretend that they never eat junk food.

Me, I don't have to pretend, I love junk food and I'm not afraid to admit it. It's hard to pick a favorite, but if you put a gun to my head I would probably say those little chocolate donuts that they sell in packs of 6 or seven. I could eat 50 of those a day if I didn't have any self restraint.

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