US consumers are increasingly turning to the internet to stock up on ready-to-eat snacks, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Although still relatively small, the online channel is one of the fastest growing channels for consumer reported purchases of ready-to-eat snacks, while traditional channels, like grocery and discount clubs, are steadying or declining, according to NPD Group’s ongoing snacking research.

The top snack foods purchased online come from all three major snack food groups: salty, sweet, and better-for-you. These types of snack foods tend to have a longer shelf life, stable form for shipping, and are often less expensive or easier to buy in bulk quantities. Premium varieties of snack foods that are hard to find in traditional channels are also purchased online. Taste is a strong driver for snack food purchases overall, but it is even more important for online purchases, which suggests consumers may be stocking up on favorites rather than trying something new, finds NPD Group.

By the numbers, 13% of snack foods purchased online are consumed as a meal replacement, compared to 10% for total channels, 85% of snack foods purchased online are eaten with no one else present, and 22% are eaten at work or in transit. Households with an income of $75,000 and above are the typical purchaser and consumer of online snack foods.

“Snack food manufacturers can take advantage of online purchasing by exploring creative digital marketing strategies, like visual storytelling around the taste or health attributes of the product, or quick click links that auto-populate the consumer’s cart with candy, sweets, and healthy snacks,” says David Portalatin, vice president, food industry analyst at NPD Group and author of the recently published Eating Patterns in America. “Manufacturers can also market directly to the online snack food consumer with bulk or premium offerings of convenient on-the-go and single serve snack foods.”