Global snack sales totaled $374 billion annually as of March 2014—an increase of two per cent year-over-year, according to Nielsen retail sales data.
And there's good news for those in the fresh produce industry, as across the regions, and by large margins, global respondents said that fresh fruit (18 per cent) is their snack of choice selected from a list of 47 different snacking options, followed by chocolate (15 per cent).
Europe ($167bn) and North America ($124bn) make up the majority of worldwide snack sales, with sales flat in Europe, and growing at a two per cent rate in North America, compared to the previous year.
Conversely, while annual snack sales in Asia-Pacific ($46bn), Latin America ($30bn) and the Middle East/Africa ($7bn) are significantly lower than in the other two regions, annual growth in these largely-developing regions increased more over the past year - by 4 per cent in Asia-Pacific, nine per cent in Latin America and five per cent in the Middle East/Africa.
Confectionery, a category which includes sugary sweets like chocolate, hard candy and gum, comprises the biggest sales contribution to the overall snack category in Europe ($46.5bn) and the Middle East/Africa ($1.9bn).
Salty snacks contribute more than one-fifth of snack sales in North America ($27.7bn), refrigerated snacks comprise almost one-third of snacks in Asia-Pacific ($13.7bn) and cookies and snack cakes make up more than one-fourth of total snacks in Latin America ($8.6bn).
Nielsen also asked consumers across the world what one snack they would choose above all others. Following fresh fruit and chocolate were yogurt (six per cent), bread/sandwiches (six per cent), cheese (five per cent), potato chips/tortilla chips/crisps (five per cent), vegetables (five per cent) and ice cream/gelato (4%).
In the span of 30 days, though, at least half of global respondents said that they ate chocolate (64 per cent), fresh fruit (62 per cent), vegetables (52 per cent), cookies/biscuits (51 per cent), bread/sandwich (50 per cent) and yogurt (50 per cent).
Taste preferences for snack options are noticeably different around the world, though, Nielsen's research found. Besides fresh fruit and chocolate, large percentages of respondents also snack on vegetables in Asia-Pacific (57 per cent), cheese in Europe (58%), bread/sandwiches in the Middle East/Africa (47 per cent), ice cream/gelato in Latin America (63 per cent) and potato chips/tortilla chips in North America (63 per cent).
The findings of the survey were based on respondents with online access across 60 countries.