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Top 50 Snack Brands Ranked

Alpha-Diver Unveils The First Psychology-based Snack Brand Rankings


Summer snacking season opened with the Memorial Day weekend as Americans gobbled their favorites: chocolates, chips and cookies, according to neuro-market researchers at Alpha-Diver, which unveiled The Snack 50 Psych Pulse ranking of leading brands.


But WHY do Reese’s (The Hershey Company), Lay’s (PepsiCo) and Great Value brands (Walmart) lead the “Snack 50” ranking; in the first comprehensive measure of the psychological drivers of snack brand performance? And WHAT kind of snacker are you: Rational, Tribal, Instinctual or Experiential?

“While previous snack food rankings have been based on popularity polls, sales volume or reviewer critiques, the ‘Snack 50 Psych Pulse’ is the first ranking of brands based on the WHY's of consumer behavior,” said Hunter Thurman, CEO, Alpha-Diver, a leading neuroscience-based consumer insights market research firm. “The ‘Snack 50’ provides diagnostics from a consumer perspective of brand performance, including brand affinity, brand usage momentum and brand growth paths.”


Gen Z, Millennial Boomers Favorites Differ


“The leading snack brands are ranked via Alpha-Diver’s proprietary Psych Pulse composite score of key dimensions, including: Behavior (consumption routines), Emotion (consumer enthusiasm) and Trajectory (product usage momentum),” according to T. Sigi Hale, PhD, director of research and principal neuroscientist at Alpha-Diver.


Best and Worst Performing Snack Categories


Looking at the top and bottom performers at a granular consumer level reveals psychological differences across generations and genders relative to snack choices:


The top-ranking category among Women is Potato Chips; Chocolate Candy among Men


Whereas Reese’s is the top-ranked brand among the general population, Oreo is top-ranked among Gen Z (for whom Reese’s slips out of the top 5).

Hispanic consumers favor Doritos, again with Reese’s out of the top 5 among this cohort.


Lay’s ranks in the top 5 among all demographic cuts, and is ranked first among younger Baby Boomers – older Boomers favor Hershey’s chocolate.

Great Value emerges as the strongest snacking store brand, including strong performance among both younger and older Millennials.


The Snack 50 Psych Pulse explores four key dimensions of consumer purchase behavior:


1. Rational: Product provides options that make rational sense. Top performers in order: Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps, Nutri-Grain and Skinny Pop Popcorn.

2. Experiential: Brands provide new sensory experiences. Top performers: Sour Patch Kids, Starburst, and Cape Cod.

3. Tribal: Brands provide social connection. Top performers are: Aldi brands, Great Value brands, and Lay’s.

4. Instinctual: These are feel-good, impulse-driven brands. Top performers: are Slim Jim, Jack Links, and Sour Patch Kids.

In addition to ranking snack brands, The Snack 50 Psych Pulse provides insights for brand marketers, including brand momentum. Leading gainers include: Aplenty, Happy Belly and Favorite Day. Momentum laggards include: KitKat, Ruffles, and Chex mix.


The study reveals five leading dimensions that determine which brands are winning the hearts, and wallets, of consumers:


Price: Does the brand offer good value?

Time: Does the brand fit daily life routines?

Social: Is the brand socially endorsed/acceptable to one’s peers?

Physical: Does the brand carry any negative connotations regarding consumer feelings?

Emotional: Does the brand carry any fear of disappointment?

“One compelling insight relates to the role of store brands, or private labels. While most teams still assume they’re growing due to price trade-downs, this study reveals a much more strategic role store brands are playing in fueling consumers’ emotional needs,” adds Hunter Thurman.

The complete “Snack 50” list and top-line report is available at: https://tinyurl.com/ek59zcmc


Research Methodology

The Snack 50 rankings are based on the psychology of a U.S. representative sample of 1,482 respondents, conducted March 2023, among Gen Z through older Boomers in urban, suburban and rural settings, the Snack 50 list covers brands across 12 categories that drive $50 billion in annual sales. The study includes 51% female, 49% male, average age 45, with a median income of $50,000. The study was conducted in partnership with The Food Institute, a leading food industry media company.


Each brand was rated using an aggregate score combining proprietary psychological measures, including consumer habituation, emotional attachment, and usage momentum, core factors in predicting real-life purchase behavior.


The measure reveals WHY a brand is performing, and areas for improvement, with implications as to actions that brand stewards can take to drive growth.



Alpha-Diver is a market research firm that applies neuroscience to more deeply understand marketplace behavior. The firm’s neuroscientists and strategists work with leading brands, retailers and the Wall Street analyst community to explain, measure, and predict consumer behavior. Clients include: McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Kellanova, among dozens more.


The Food Institute is a global B2B multimedia company delivering insights-driven content to key decision-makers in the food and beverage industry. With a farm to fork reach since 1928, The Food Institute publishes business news, data, and trends for its global readership. Through its daily e-newsletters, articles, reports, newscasts and other digital media, members receive insights quick enough to respond to real-time issues and opportunities in the marketplace.


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