According to, the UK is heading for an obesogenic environment with 60% of men, 50% of women and 25% of children anticipated to be obese by 2050. However, even considering these less than optimistic statistics, the UK’s snacking industry is worth an estimated £2.8 million.

So why are consumers shifting more towards the grazing culture when this could be increasing their overall daily calorie intake? Consumption patterns are certainly becoming less regimented and so the actual definition of what is meant by a ‘meal’ is constantly evolving. Consumers are choosing to opt for smaller meals eaten at more regular intervals throughout the day to fit in with their busy on-the-go lifestyles. This is perhaps why snacking has become so important in shaping people’s diets.

On the go

Government figures also indicate that the number of single person households is consistently increasing by 160,000 a year (Packaging News, Nov 2012) but even within a family environment, there is a prevailing need to have access to individual, convenient portion sizes due to busy lifestyles, demanding work hours.

Although Snacma reported findings that showed 78% of snack purchases are multi-packs and not individual bags, consumers are willing to pay more per volume for a single serve portion size, rather than having to work out the exact nutritional value per serving. That said, single serve portions can be very confusing for consumers, most people don’t have the time to work out what 80g is and what is considered to be a single serving differs from one product to the next, so how do you know whether you are consumer over the amount of food/calories/fat/sugar than you should be?

Confusion raises questions

Consumers are becoming more aware of their food choices and are leading the way in wanting healthier snacks that are readily available for their on-the-go lifestyle but with the introduction of ‘grab bags’ and ‘sharing bags’ should manufacturers be taking more responsibility with offering clearer labelling so that the consumer can make more informed decisions?

According to the 1993 Government foresight publication, a (crisp) snack single serving has remained at 25g but with the addition of ‘grab bags’ and ‘meal deal’ offers, does the issue lie with confusing labelling that makes it difficult for the consumer to compare products? Traditionally a single serving would have been the standard 23-28g snack bag, but recently these have grown and you do see ‘grab bags’ of 40g being positioned as on-the-go packs, the recent focus on healthier and more controlled eating now starts to raise questions. Is that really a single serve or a sharing bag?

Psychological misconceptions

There are certainly misconceptions on what a single serve portion actually is. Is some cases we have become accustomed to thinking that ‘bigger is better’ or at least better value, but the psychologies behind our purchasing decisions could be damaging our health.

Manufacturers and retailers need to provide clearer information on the portions per pack so that consumers aren’t misled into picking up a snack on the assumption that it is a single serving, when it may not be. Availability of healthier options is important to give the consumer a range of choice, it’s not always about being ‘healthy’ all of the time, but it should be made easier to make an informed decision at the point of purchase.

Food for thought

As a manufacturer of gluten free snacks our portion sizes are clearly labelled and balanced to provide a satisfying snack while contributing to dietary intake. The issue is more generally about the ambiguity around pack sizes. Positioning a ‘grab bag’ portion as being ‘on the go’ is potentially misleading for consumers because on that basis they are purchasing a snack that they believe to be a single portion (designed for one) when the reverse may be true. Food for thought.

By Sue Warren, Strategic Development Director at Wellaby’s (