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Snack Food’s Highs and Lows

Snack demand rises to its height for the year during the week of Valentine’s Day and the Super Bowl, to its second peak during the week of Halloween, and then a third peak two weeks before Christmas.

Snack foods have a unique place in American culture. They are intrinsically tied to our annual and holiday celebrations, our indulgent habits, and other milestones. When viewed as a whole, our data scientists have uncovered clear seasonal patterns in consumer demand for snacks on Amazon. To measure demand, we use our proprietary algorithm for estimating the number of searches for snacks on Amazon during a given period.

As the leader in global ecommerce acceleration, we’re constantly analyzing trends in online commerce to help brands understand consumer behavior to drive their own sales. So, to celebrate National Junk Food Day (July 21), we asked:

  • Which junk food categories and brands have the highest demand on Amazon?
  • Are there any patterns in junk food demand throughout the year?
  • How has demand for junk food changed since the start of the pandemic?

Demand is Seasonal

Demand reaches its lowest points at the end of June and during the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is probable that people are less likely to buy snacks after eating large meals and attending multiple celebrations that are common during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and have no need to seek their own junk food after eating the snacks provided at holiday parties. This has been the overall pattern for the last three years. It is interesting to note that whoever came up with the idea for a National Junk Food Day probably did so to stoke demand because it occurs at the time of the year when the demand for junk food is typically very low.

Junk Food Categories with the Highest Demand

The junk food categories that have the highest demand on Amazon include chocolates and candy, followed by chips, baked goods, meat snacks, and popcorn. Snack categories that are more difficult to obtain through Amazon, such as soda, pizza and ice cream, have lower demand.

Three Patterns of Seasonality

When we break snack foods down into subcategories, three patterns of seasonality emerge.

The first seasonal pattern concerns chocolate and candy. Demand for these sweets peaks during the weeks of Halloween, Christmas, Easter, and Mother’s Day. It reaches its maximum demand during the week of Valentine’s Day, likely thanks to the tradition of chocolates as a Valentine’s gift.

The second pattern is a low at the end of June, during the week of Thanksgiving, and the week right after Christmas. This pattern has been consistent over the past three years. Interestingly, demand for chocolate and candy did not spike significantly in the three weeks after the announcement of the pandemic on March 11, 2020, unlike the demand for other junk food categories, as we will see below.

The third pattern of seasonality occurs within the healthy snacks, chips, baked goods, and soda categories. These all experienced a spike in demand for three weeks following the declaration of the pandemic on March 11th, 2020. After that, they resumed with our first seasonal pattern: a peak during the week of Valentine’s Day and the Superbowl, a peak during the week of Labor Day, and then low demand during the week of Thanksgiving.

Interestingly, healthy snacks experience their greatest rise from Thanksgiving until early February (Superbowl and Valentine’s Day). It may be that right after overeating on Thanksgiving, people start to try improving their health by consuming healthier snacks and probably do well with their New Year’s diets and exercise until their healthy habits are derailed by Superbowl watch parties and Valentine’s Day chocolates. Demand for healthy snacks on Amazon is greater than the demand for chips, baked goods, and soda, possibly speaking to the types of products consumers have in mind when visiting the ecommerce giant.

Our fourth seasonal pattern in demand for snack food includes meat snacks and popcorn. These categories reach their peak demand two weeks before Christmas and have relatively low demand the rest of the year. Both meat snacks and popcorn experienced a brief spike in demand that lasted for about two months after the pandemic was declared.

Which Junk Food Brands Have the Highest Demand?

When we look at the brands of chocolates, candy, and chips that have the highest demand, we find that demand is dominated by only two or three brands in each category. For chocolates, the brands with the highest demand are M&Ms and Hershey’s Kisses.

Sour Patch Kids and Skittles lead the demand for non-chocolate candy brands on Amazon.

For chips, consumer demand is highest for Doritos, Pringles, and Cheetos.

Changing Consumer Preferences

Consumer demand for all categories of junk food has increased over the past year. Candy led the way with a 19.5% increase in demand YoY. Popcorn and chocolate were next with increases of 16.2% and 15.7%, respectively. Meat snacks grew the least with only 0.1% YoY growth.

For brands of chocolate, the demand for Hershey’s Kisses on Amazon has increased substantially since Q3 of 2019 and has overtaken demand for M&Ms and Almond Joy. Demand for Kit Kats, Snickers, and Butterfingers has been decreasing. Demand for Twix is low but steady.

With respect to brands of non-chocolate candy, Skittles garners the most demand, with Sour Patch Kids and Hot Tamales battling for second. Meanwhile, demand for Nerds is slowly increasing, but demand for Dots, Tootsie Pops, and Starbursts is flat or decreasing.

Demand for brands of chips has been decreasing since the start of the pandemic with the highest demand being for Fritos and Pringles. Demand for Pringles on Amazon surpassed demand for Doritos for three quarters during the past two years. Perhaps the variety of flavors and ease of delivery of a can of Pringles has made them attractive to Amazon shoppers.

Junk Food Roundup

Our analysis shows that the junk foods with the highest demand on Amazon are chocolates, candies, and chips. The seasonality of demand for these junk foods coincides with major US holidays and the Super Bowl with predictable patterns of peaks and troughs in demand. The highest demand for individual brands of chocolate, candy, and chips on Amazon is focused on only a few brands for each subcategory that battle for demand each quarter. Our insights into consumer search and shopping indicate there is seasonality to many junk and healthy food products–from candy to popcorn and more. Understanding shifts in consumer demand timed to specific events or milestones is important for brands and retailers who must forecast inventory to coincide with seasonal demand for different products throughout the year. To stay up to date on consumer behavior and ecommerce news, info, and trend analyses, be sure to subscribe to Pattern Insights on the right. If you’d like to learn more about how you can leverage our data to help your brand win online, schedule a demo today.