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 belVita Breakfast Biscuits

Snacking Offers Comfort and Convenience During COVID-19

Adapting to the rapidly changing environment is critical for survival these days. The pandemic has turned the world upside down, disrupting the way nearly every foodservice operator does business. That’s been especially true for the healthcare sector.

But now, as things return to relative normalcy, staff and guests are looking to healthcare foodservice facilities for sustenance and comfort. The operators of these facilities continue to face unprecedented challenges, however. They’re not only dealing with new health protocols, stepped-up cleaning and sanitation practices, mandated personal protective equipment for all staff, and social distancing concerns; they also must rethink the what, why and how of the products they offer.

Stress relievers

In these troubled times, and in other stressful situations, people seek comfort. For many, that means snacking. Some 17% of consumers say they eat snacks when they’re stressed, feeling anxious (13%) or feeling sad (10%), according to Technomic’s 2020 Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report. People crave sweet treats they enjoyed as kids—think OREO Cookies, CHIPS AHOY!, NILLA Wafers and TEDDY GRAHAMS—as well as salty, savory snacks such as RITZ Crackers and WHEAT THINS.

Recognizable brand names are important too. Especially in unfamiliar surroundings, consumers look for familiar labels—especially the brands they’ve enjoyed at home. In fact, 57% of consumers say they look for a brand of food or beverage they like when choosing a snack, Technomic confirms.

Mood changers

Healthcare foodservice aims to elevate the overall experience for family and friends visiting patients. Some operators offer complimentary snacks to guests in waiting rooms—and even out in hospital parking lots if visitors must wait there. This can really boost moods and energy levels, which is an important motivator for snacking. For 47% of consumers, an “energizing” snack is appealing or extremely appealing, the Snacking Occasion report found. A third of them say they snack to give themselves a treat; another 24% do so to avert boredom.

Night or day

Healthcare facilities operate 24/7. Although the most popular time for snacking is afternoon (so say 71% of consumers), people also crave snacks in the evening (45%), late at night (32%) and in the morning (23%). Operators must provide an array of snacks to suit the occasion. For example, morning snackers might enjoy belVita Breakfast Biscuits, while night owls may crave confections such as gum and candy. Stock plenty of cookies and crackers as well.

Operational innovations

With pandemic restrictions, foodservice operators have to adjust service models to comply with new protocols. Self-serve is out; pivoting to prepackaged grab-and-go options is in. Cafeterias have been augmented or replaced by pop-up kiosks and convenience store setups. Operators can capture add-on sales by offering visitors and staff a selection of prepackaged foods, meal kits and take-and-bake items that can be finished at home, as well as groceries and other necessities.

According to the Snacking Occasion report, packaged snacks are most popular with consumers. In fact, packaged snacks account for 54% of all snack purchases. Given this, it benefits operators to offer single-serve snack sizes for immediate consumption and larger bags for groups or eating at home. Because snacking is just as frequently planned as it is an impulse, healthcare convenience stores should be stocked to satisfy both types of purchases.

Find more pointers for delivering a satisfying around-the-clock snacking experience here.

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