The Chips Aren’t Down

Led by potato chips, salty snacks still rule with consumers

ROCKVILLE, Md.— Don’t revamp that snack department just yet. Salty snacks aren’t going anywhere.

U.S. consumers might talk a good game about healthy snacking, but data shows that tried-and-true salty varieties still hold a special place in their snack regimen—particularly potato chips.

According to market research firm Packaged Facts, the percentage of households who purchase salty snacks (more than 90%) in a typical week is on par with the percentage of Americans who own cellphones and is almost as high as the percentage of U.S. homes with a TV, according to its report “Salty Snacks in the U.S.”

Even with an increasing array of artisanal food product introductions and the nationwide shift toward living healthier lifestyles, the salty snack—be it chips, pretzels, cheese snacks or popcorn—is a prevailing go-to snack for consumers.

While potato chips lead the way in terms of popularity, it is joined by other salty snacks in the typical U.S. household, said Packaged Facts. Only 8 million households, or 7% of all households purchasing salty snacks, consume potato chips and no other salty variety. In sharp contrast, 77 million households, or 67% of the total number of households that purchase salty snacks, consume at least three kinds of salty snacks.

Adults living in households that stock all four major types of salty snacks (potato chips, popcorn products, corn/tortilla chips/cheese snacks and pretzels) represent what Packaged Facts called “a bygone image of Middle America.” These diversified salty snackers are adults ages of 35 to 54 and non-Hispanic white.

These individuals are much more likely to live in America’s heartland, Packaged Facts found, and in small and medium-size urban areas. They also have a higher likelihood of working full time and enjoy a middle- to upper-income lifestyle, with a household income of $75,000 or more.

Children and parents are also more common in households that consume all four major snack categories.