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Got the Munchies?

Apparently, we all are afflicted with that pesky malady known as "the munchies", urges for something to snack on maybe in mid-morning or mid-afternoon, or that craving that sneaks up in the evening, watching TV.

According to The Future of Snacking 2016 by the food industry consulting firm The Hartman Group, 91 percent of us snack on something multiple times during the day. So clearly, it's become a lifestyle, and I'm not alone.

"Eating between meals has now become a way of life for busy on-the-go consumers, particularly Millennials," said Larry Lupo, a Mars Chocolate North America executive, in an article in the current issue of Convenience Distribution magazine.

In fact, snacking is so prevalent and such a big business that there is an entire trade association, SNAC International, that's devoted to representing companies that manufacture and sell snack food products, and there are a number of trade magazines devoted to that industry.

Now, not all snacks are unhealthy, even though the most popular, potato chips, pretzels, nacho chips and the like are not what you would consider health foods. It always struck me as ironic that for years the snack industry's trade association actually had a dietitian as a PR consultant who was supposed to spin snack foods in a positive light.

But today, yogurt, fruit, energy bars, juices, raw veggies are also considered snacks and are among the products consumed by all of us snackers. So that 91 percent of consumers who snack are not necessarily gorging themselves on high fat, high cholesterol, high sodium goodies. Plus, a lot of snack food companies have developed and are promoting "better-for-you" snack products designed to tap into our munching madness while easing our sometimes feelings of guilt when we crave those chips or candy bars.

In Convenience Distribution magazine article mentioned above, author Cecelia Blalock points out that "better-for-you" snacks come in many formats (bites, squares, chips, crackers, popcorn), ingredients (nuts, seeds, vegetables, flavors), and profiles (organic, gluten-free, GMO free, protein, low/no calorie).

The challenge, of course, is to make these products tasty enough that they'll satisfy our cravings. Do baked, salt-free potato chips really do that?

I don't know, I try to eat as healthy as I can. But I have a hard time curbing my evening urge for ice cream or something salty while watching a ballgame or movie on TV.

How about you? Do these "better-for-you" products really work for you?

Full Disclosure: I'm editor of Convenience Distribution magazine.

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