No matter where you live in the world, there's one issue we can all agree on: Snacks are awesome.
However, we don't all agree on which types of snacks are pretty amazing. Nielsen released on Sept. 30 its first-ever study of people's snacking habits around the world. By the looks of it, how, when and what you like to snack on depends on where you live.
Out of the $374 billion spent on snacks in the year that ended in March 2014, Europeans spent the most money overall with $167 billion. They were followed by those living in North America ($124 billion), Asia-Pacific ($46 billion), Latin America ($30 billion) and the Middle East/Africa ($7 billion). Spending on snacks grew 2 percent worldwide compared to the year before and is expected to continue to grow in the future.
So what are people spending their money on? Europeans like their confections. People in North America enjoy salty foods the most. Those in Latin America snack on cookies and cakes. People in Asian-Pacific countries like refrigerated food. Those in the Middle East and Africa like to eat confections and salty snacks equally.
Things actually get even more interesting when you look at snacking globally rather than regionally. Surprisingly, the snacks people desire the most are fresh fruit, not popcorn, potato chips or cookies, as one might expect. Don't worry, though. Chocolate wasn't far behind.
This makes perfect sense when you consider what snacks people are actually eating. As we all know, what people say and what people do are often not one and the same. It turns out the snack that gets eaten the most by people around the world is chocolate with fresh fruit coming in a close second.
The snacks people are actually eating around the world also differ by region. In North America, chips reign supreme, whereas fresh fruit makes its way to most plates in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. People in Latin America like yogurt, while those in Asia-Pacific like their chocolate.
People have also started to replace their meals with snacks. One reason for this is simply because people just don't have time to sit down and enjoy an entire meal anymore, said Nielsen's senior vice president of Global Consumer Insights James Russo to The Washington Post. Out of the respondents from 60 countries worldwide, 52 percent of them said they eat snacks instead of breakfast. The percentage of people that used snacks as an alternative to lunch and dinner was a bit less, at 43 and 40 percent, respectively.
As people around the world increasingly take their lives mobile and middle classes continue to emerge in developing countries, global snack consumption is likely to continue to expand, according to Russo. We've already seen how the future of snacking in the U.S. might look with the testing of smaller bites at major chains, such as Starbucks' "Frappuccino Mini" and Pizza Hut's "Skinny Slice." If new ways of presenting food like this take off, it could mean more snacks for us all.