Consumers across the country are snacking a lot more now than they ever have before, prompting analysts to forecast $22.9 billion in snack sales by 2016.  The same report, from Chicago-based research firm Mintel Group Ltd., suggests a 23.8% growth in the overall snacking market between 2012 and 2016, due in part to a strengthening economy and changing consumer attitudes.


From street food to bar and restaurant culture, various Latin American countries have a deep running tradition with snacking. For instance, almost every country within Central America offers their own take on bocadillos—snack-sized finger foods filled with flavorful ingredients like marmalade, cheeses and thinly sliced meats.

Travel into South America, and you’ll find snacks all over the continent. In Chile, for instance, snack foods are often consumed before or after lunch, and can include items like pastry and coffee, freshly roasted nuts, handpicked berries, and small sandwiches or empanadas.

Head north into Mexico and discover many small bite snacks like tacos al pastor and sopes. Additionally, their version of deep fried pork crackling, or chicharrones, can be flavored with a variety of savory and unique spices.


By incorporating snacks into existing menus you can capture a growing audience and also appeal to guests’ preferences. Build your snack menu by featuring authentic flavors, diner favorites, or creative takes on appetizers. For instance, try adding chorizo to traditional spinach and artichoke dip, or making empanadas with creative fillings like steak, grilled onion and blue cheese.

Of course, creativity may not win over every guest. 71% of Hispanic consumers want authentic tasting food when eating at Mexican or other Hispanic restaurants.  In this case, it may be better to reconcept more traditional offerings as miniature one-bite delights.

Consumer trends are dictating a change in eating habits. Many of today’s diners are opting for six small meals throughout the day—as opposed to three square meals divided between breakfast, lunch and dinner. Provide small-plate options throughout the day to appeal to consumers’ changing dining habits.


Snacking can be prompted by choice or impulse. By utilizing a grab-and-go case, you can stimulate on-the-go snack consumption, as well as impulse buys. Pre-packed menu items satiate snackers, while also helping to eliminate ordering and wait time for busier carryout customers. And though we often think of a snack as a small bite to eat, even a filling beverage can help sustain hunger. According to Mintel Research, today’s Hispanic Millennials are seeking out non-alcoholic beverages more often than the general population.   When planning what to stock in your grab-and-go case, consider merchandising snacks, desserts, pre-wrapped meals, and beverages.


Snack-style menus can add a big boost to your bottom line by enticing new customers through your door. And, they don’t have to be geared directly to your bar crowd. Adding service during off-meal hours between lunch and dinner, or from dinner to close, can accommodate a workforce that operates outside of traditional 9-5 hours. Examples include restaurant workers, swing-shifters, telecommuters, business travelers, nurses, and graduate students—just to name a few.


Adding snacks to your menu does not have to mean abandoning the dishes your guests have grown to love. Think of new ways to present old favorites. Try plating individual tortilla chips with ceviche, as opposed to the traditional serving glass. Source slider-sized buns and create tiny two-bite tortas. Mini versions of your most popular entrees are an easy way to satisfy guests, and add new streams of revenue.

1 Mintel Group Ltd. 
2 Technomic Hispanic Food Service Consumer Trend Report
3 Mintel Group Ltd.