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Americans are comfort eating potato chips, popcorn, and pretzels as economic anxiety rises and recession looms

a close up of a man's hand grabbing potato chipsPotato chips are keeping us calm.

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  • The US salty snack market is continuing to grow even as consumers feel the pinch.
  • According to market research firm Mintel, some consumers eat these snacks to de-stress.
  • Snacks are seen as affordable luxuries in unstable times. 

Americans are turning to potato chips for comfort in unsettling times. 

According to a new report by market research firm Mintel, which was shared with Insider, the salty snack market – including popular brands such as Frito-Lay chips, Doritos, and Aunt Annie’s Pretzels – is continuing to grow despite rising prices and customers feeling the inflation pinch. 

Mintel analysts say that current demand is partly driven by these snacks being thought of as valuable de-stressing tools that help consumers to “slow down” and relax. 

According to Mintel’s survey, more than a quarter of people have increased their consumption of salty snacks in the past year, with 47% of millennials eating more chips, popcorn, and pretzels.

“As consumers continue to navigate stressful and evolving times, salty snacks can be there to help them slow down and even relieve stress,” Mintel analyst Kelsey Olsen in a statement.

“Salty snacks are winning in their ability to satisfy cravings and meet emotional needs, expanding their role beyond a quick hunger-satisfying solution.”

While a recent survey from Gallup indicates that large numbers of consumers consider themselves worse off now than in 2022, shoppers are still buying snacks.

Snacks aren’t generally considered essential purchases like other food items but experts say shoppers are willing to buy these products because they’re deemed inexpensive treats.

It’s not just the salty variety either. Insider’s Alex Bitter recently reported that chocolate and candy manufacturers such as Hershey and Mondelēz recently raised their guidance for quarterly numbers because they were seeing larger sales volumes in recent months.

Zak Stambor, a senior analyst at Insider Intelligence, told Bitter that is partly because people want to treat themselves in some way when times are tough, such as when a widely-expected recession is looming. Buying a chocolate bar is an affordable way to do so. 

“A package of Oreos is far from ‘luxury,’ but it’s a small treat that is not too expensive to throw in your shopping cart that enables you to not feel terrible at all times,” he said. This was something that happened in the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 too, he added. 

Mondelēz’s CEO Dirk Van de Put echoed this in a recent statement after the company released its State of Snacking report created with Harris Poll in January. The survey polled 3,530 adults across its 12 different markets including the US, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, China, and the UK.

80% of shoppers surveyed said it was more important than ever for them to have “moments of indulgence” in the day. In short, these tasty snacks are keeping morale up. 

“Our State of Snacking report confirms that in these trying times, consumers around the world view their favorite snacks as affordable and necessary indulgences,” Van de Put said.

“Snacking continues to be a way for consumers to connect or to enjoy a moment of delight in their day,” he added. 

Read the original article on Business Insider