What the World Eats When It's Snack Time

Snacking is a nearly universal pastime—total global snack sales reached $374 billion in the year that ended March 2014—with chocolate beloved just about everywhere people snack.

Chocolate was the most common response, at 64 percent, in the first-ever global snacking study by Nielsen, which asked 30,000 people in 60 countries to reveal the snacks consumed in the most recent 30 days. The next-most-common responses, surprisingly, were fruits (62 percent) and vegetables (52 percent). Cookies (51 percent) and bread (50 percent) also wound up atop the global snack list.

People in the U.S. reported less-healthy eating habits than the rest of the snacking planet: Salty chips topped the U.S. results, followed by chocolate, cheese, and cookies. And while Americans devour those salty treats, James Russo, senior vice president of global consumer insights at Nielsen, notes a certain contradiction in the survey responses: “The No. 1 one health attribute we want in our snacks: less sodium.” Oh, the snack hypocrisy.

Chocolate may be a global habit but on a country-by-country level, people made distinct choices. Ice cream was the most common response in Peru and Chile, while yogurt finished on top in Mexico and Colombia. Nuts. seeds, and dumplings were popular in China, although still not as popular as No 1. chocolate and No. 2 fresh fruit. Bread and sandwich snacks were the top response in India.

France, as expected, showed a strong orientation toward dairy, with yogurt and cheese  leading the responses. Cheese also dominated in Russia, Greece, and the Netherlands. Let’s tip our hats to the healthy snackers of Israel and Romania, who reported vegetables as the most commonly snacked food over the most recent 30 days.

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