Innovation Evolution: Late Night Snacking Trends

by | Aug 3, 2023

It’s the late hours of the evening. Everyone else in the house has gone to bed. But you’re still awake, maybe getting some extra work done or relaxing with a binge-worthy Netflix show. Without really thinking about it, you’ve wandered to the fridge or the pantry, looking for a snack. What flavors or formats appeal to you? Are they different than a snack you’d choose in the morning or afternoon?

Yes, probably! Research has found that eating and drinking habits are shifting. Not only are people snacking more often, but they may prefer different kinds of foods and beverages depending on the time of day. Let’s explore three late night snacking trends to guide brands’ creation of an innovative food or beverage perfect for satisfying a case of the midnight munchies.

Shifting Eating and Drinking Habits

We’ve watched eating routines become less structured for the past few years. During the pandemic, we saw an increase in meals cooked at home, snacking throughout the day, and “foraging for dinner” as a creative way to use up leftovers. Now, as more people return to working outside the home, eating on the go, and socializing in the evenings, at-home mealtimes have shifted to early morning and late evening.

There’s more room for snacking, skipping meals, or including a “fourth meal” later in the evening. A survey from the Hartman Group found snacking accounted for almost 50% of all eating occasions during 2020. And respondents enjoying late night snacks rose from 19% in 2020 to 22% in 2021.

The younger generation, in particular, is snacking more frequently. In the UK, 53% of Gen Zs (25 and under) snack between meals at least twice a day, compared to 33% of Gen Xs (Mintel). 49% of Gen Zs agree that snacking is more satisfying after dark.


Late Night Snacking Motivations

Looking for Comfort

Many people find comfort in a sweet or salty snack when stressed or after a long day at work. Some studies have found that exerting willpower (choosing a salad for lunch, solving complex problems) depletes your self-control over time. Appetite also tends to peak in the evening around 8 pm. So, the later it gets, the more willing people may be to indulge in late night snacks. Mintel reports that 47% Canadian Gen Zs associate chips with late-night snacking, followed by popcorn (33%) and crackers (33%).

Specially curated snacking care packages like this “Late Night Snacks Box” demonstrate how people crave indulgence and super snacky food after dark. Described as the “perfect gift for night owls,” the box has an eclectic mix of beverages and sweet and salty snacks.


promotional image of the Late Night Snack Box


But Still Prioritizing Health

While we may not say “no” to a late-night treat, interest in better-for-you snacks is on the rise. Food Business News reported in 2020 that 80% of snackers are looking for added functional benefits. According to Trend Hunter, the food and beverage industry is seeing an increase in sleep-supporting launches to meet the demand for functional wellness. These aren’t just supplements or gummies formulated to support sleep health but more traditional snacks like ice cream, cookies, and chocolate.

For example, Post markets its Sweet Dreams Cereal as a late-night snack with ingredients to support natural melatonin production. (We also featured this launch in May when we explored how brands can create authentic connections with Millennials who are looking to balance busy lives and lower stress levels.)


two boxes of Post-Sweet-Dreams-Cereal


Some brands have created an entire lineup of sleep-friendly snacks. Nightfood offers a selection of “guilt-free” cookies and ice cream with fun names like “After Dinner Mint Chip,” “Cookies n Dreams,” and “Prime Time Chocolate Chip.”


promotional image of Night Food products

Keeping Tabs On What’s Trending

People are looking for convenient and easy ways to snack. One of the latest trends, the “rat snack,” celebrates sometimes weird but often wonderful late night snack combinations. Despite the unappetizing name, rat snacks use simple ingredients like rice, eggs, cheese slices, or pickles to create unique and resourceful snacks using what’s already on hand. “Best rat snacks” has over 31.6 million views on Tiktok and counting.

The trend of slightly unconventional combinations—like goldfish crackers in salsa or pickles covered in melted cheese—creates an atmosphere full of innovation opportunities. People wwatching their favorite social media personalities trying unconventional food combinations (and liking them!) might be more willing to try foods that would normally be out of their comfort zones.


@abbeyskitchen When your InstaCart shopper throws in an unexpected pack of processed cheese, you turn it into a budget friendly “rat snack” with whatever else you have in the fridge. 🧀 😮😮😮😮😮😮 #ratsnack #unhinged #snackideas #budgetfriendly #budgetmeals #budgetsnack #frugal #applepie #cheesetoast ♬ Beat Automotivo Tan Tan Tan Viral – WZ Beat

Inspire a Case of the Late-Night Munchies With Your Next Snack-Worthy Innovation

Need ideas for your next innovative food or beverage? FlavorSum’s flavor and applications experts are here to help you navigate development hurdles and speed time to market. Connect with us to create a delicious, snackable innovation that will keep shoppers coming back for more!