There’s something really wrong with 1/3 of the planet

If it’s not mealtime, it’s chocolate time.
If it’s not mealtime, it’s chocolate time.
Image: Reuters/Jim Bourg
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Here’s one sweeping takeaway from Nielsen’s new report on snacking habits around the world: The $374 billion global snack industry would seem to owe a lot to the relationship between women and chocolate.

In an online survey of 30,000 individuals from 60 countries, respondents were asked about general snacking preferences and the kinds of snack foods they had recently consumed. Among the 97% of respondents who said they ate snacks, 64% had reached for chocolate in the 30 days leading up to the survey, with women more likely than men to have done so. In fact, women outnumbered men in all snack categories regarding recent consumption: 57% of women had snacked on yogurt, for example, compared to 44% of men.

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The second most-common snack around the world was fresh fruit, which 62% of people reported eating between or instead of meals.

When snacking habits are examined on regional scales, chocolate is still either the most or second-most popular snack, although other trends stand out. In Europe, for example, 58% of people snack on cheese. But only 33% snack on cheese in Asia and the Pacific, making it less popular than yogurt, gum, dumplings, and instant noodles there. In Latin America, 64% of people snack on cheese, putting it in the same league as ice cream (63%) and yogurt (66%) and ahead of fresh fruit (57%). North Americans, meanwhile, are most likely to reach for potato or tortilla chips, and a full 44% of them snack on peanut butter—the same proportion of those who snack on vegetables.

The worldwide trend in snacking is “all natural”—those two words are what 45% of consumers rate as “very important” when it comes to choosing a snack. More than 40% also prefer snacks free of artificial colors and flavors and genetically modified ingredients. Only 31% of people said they cared as much about protein content, and even fewer care about calories, carbohydrates, or the presence of high fructose corn syrup.

For a more detailed examination of the Nielsen report, see the Washington Post’s “definitive guide to how people snack around the world.”