Healthy snacking – a recent phenomenon that's here to stay

Snacking is not a phenomenon of the 21st century; it is deeply rooted in our culture. Even our ancestors nibbled between meals or ate their kill as the opportunity arose. The main difference between snacking then and our habits today relates to the easy availability of snacks and the raw materials they contain.

We have always liked to snack. For thousands of years, we didn't really take regular meals; we ate when we were hungry and relied on our good fortune as hunter-gatherers. Man foraged and hunted and ate on the spot. The switch from many frequent meals to at least two fixed meal times per day was a relatively recent development in our history – presumably around 7,000 years ago with the advent of agriculture and livestock breeding. With the industrialisation of the 19th century, however, the system of fixed meals shifted towards individualised snacking. What was still missing was the freedom we have today to decide when and what we want to eat. Eating habits were primarily determined by external assembly lines, shift plans and time clocks.

The next radical changes in our eating habits came in the 21st century with its advances in digital technologies. They have simplified and transformed almost every aspect of our lives: we can now simultaneously work, learn, pursue social activities and even order a pizza via the web, regardless of where we are or the time of day.

Digitisation leads to individualised eating habits

The amount of time we have for work and our private lives varies from person to person. This greater individualisation is now having a huge influence on our eating habits. The preparation of the three traditional meals is now facing competition from more attractive propositions. Taking time to cook and eat fixed meals is increasingly seen as an unnecessary burden to be avoided. So healthy snacks are the perfect solution today: they free us from time-consuming preparation, waiting time and formal, structured eating rituals. The new, more informal structure of snacking is liberating, relaxed and made for the 21st century.

We eat as the opportunity arises: sitting down or on our feet, with our without cutlery, alone at our office desk or with friends or strangers at a fast food outlet. Whenever works for us.

Snacking is and always has been part of our eating culture. In evolutionary terms, snacking has been a natural habit since time immemorial.