The Ultimate Guide To Snacks In America

It's no secret that Americans like to snack. But just how much they like to snack might take you by surprise. A study conducted by OnePoll found that on three separate occasions per week, 51% of Americans will swap out a major meal for snacks (via SWNS Digital). What's more, 69% of Americans admitted to taking a snack with them whenever they leave the house.

When it comes to choosing which snack to enjoy, Americans are spoiled with choices. According to Ibis World, the American snack production industry is worth $43.6 billion and churns out countless options. The most popular snacks in the U.S. today are cookies, with chips and ice cream coming in a close second and third respectively.

Over the decades, some snack brands have come to mean more to Americans than others. That is why we have taken into account brand heritage alongside general popularity and overall quality to create our list of the snacks most valued by Americans today. However, this guide is not exhaustive and relies, to some degree, on personal opinion. So, read on to discover our take on the snacks that define modern America. 

Planters nuts

According to Planters, the company has been around since the early 20th century when Amedeo Obici and Mario Peruzzi launched the company in Pennsylvania. Since then, the company has expanded from just producing and selling whole, blanched peanuts to now offering a variety of snack products, including Cheez Balls and trail mixes.

This wide range of products has seen Planters cement itself as one of the most well-known snack brands in America, with surveys by YouGov finding that 96% of Americans are familiar with the brand. The same surveys also reported that the brand is most popular among the baby boomer generation. 

When combined with the healthy nature of nuts as a snack, the outlook for the brand is good, as explained by Jacco Douma, the global travel retail manager for Planters. "Planters is already the most well-known international nut brand in the world," he noted. "Our Mr. Peanut brand ambassador is a great contributor to brand imagery and helps bring the brand alive on the shop floor, and, most importantly, Planters taps into the rising demand for healthy and salty snacking." This means that whether millennials like it or not, Planters nuts are an American snack that is here to stay.

Orville Redenbacher's popcorn

As reported by BakeryandSnacks, popcorn is America's favorite snack by volume consumed. It's not hard to see why; popcorn is cheap, healthy, and has enjoyed a long association with one of America's favorite pastimes — going to the movies. What's more, the invention of the microwave and other technological advances has made it easier than ever to make popcorn from the comfort of your own home. And one brand taking advantage of all these positives is Orville Redenbacher, America's leading brand of popcorn. Statista reports that during 2020, over 63 million Americans snacked on Orville Redenbacher's popcorn. This was nearly 15 million more than the company's closest competitor, Pop Secret. 

One of the reasons Orville Redenbacher is America's favorite popcorn is the superior nature of the kernel. According to Garden Center, Redenbacher himself experimented with numerous strains, many of them created for the first time using cross-pollination techniques. The strain he ended up developing was one that popped to be extremely light and fluffy. Redenbacher also ensured that his kernels had an extremely high ratio of popped to unpopped corn: 44:1. This same strain, called RedBow, is still in use today. 

Ritz crackers

Brand heritage is extremely important for companies in all industries, but perhaps especially so for those in food manufacturing. GlobalData (via Inside Food) reports that 52% of consumers believe well-established food brands offer products that are of superior quality. Furthermore, these products are seen as trustworthy, with their consistency and quality all but guaranteed.

After being sold in the United States for over 80 years, Ritz crackers are undoubtedly viewed as a heritage brand, per Mondelēz International. This fact is illustrated by the fame and popularity the simple crackers still enjoy. For example, according to Business Insider, in both 2011 and 2012, Ritz crackers were seen as the best-perceived snack in the cracker and chip group. More recently, Ritz was named the 20th most popular brand in America (via YouGov).

While nostalgia undoubtedly makes up part of Ritz's appeal, so does an association with fun, as highlighted by The New York Times. Yet, the main reason Ritz crackers remain popular is because they are so good. They have a buttery and slightly salty taste, coupled with a gentle crunch.


Is cereal a snack or a meal? This is a question that has long been disputed. However, it seems that with each passing generation those that consider it a snack are becoming more common, and according to Mintel, about 40% of Americans admitted to it in 2017. The same publication also reveals that among millennials, 56% of the population snack on cereal. John Owen, an analyst at Mintel, revealed why this trend is so important. "While breakfast is the most common occasion for eating cereal and nearly universal across age groups, snacking on cereal may offer greater potential for reinvigorating category growth, especially among younger adults," he explained. "Considering how popular snacking is among millennials, there could be an opportunity to increase snacking and on-the-go consumption of cereal among younger generations."

It seems that cereal is becoming a force in the American snacking sector, which begs the question: Which brand is America's favorite? Food Manufacturing reports that Cinnamon Toast Crunch barely beat out Rice Krispies as the most popular cereal on Amazon in 2021.

Trail mix

Trail mix stands out in this guide for a number of reasons. First, it is the only non-branded snack listed here. Second, trail mix is the most customizable, with numerous variations being available to purchase and near-endless ingredient combinations for those who wish to make their own. MyProtein highlighted this latter fact by researching the most popular trail mix ingredients by state. Top ingredient choices included cheese puffs (Texas and California), pecans (Oklahoma, Mississippi), and even marshmallows (Kansas, South Dakota, and West Virginia).

If customizability is one of the key reasons for trail mix's national popularity, then its satiating nature is another. According to REI, trail mix — sometimes called GORP — is known for being high in fat. Thanks to its calorific nature, it only takes small amounts of trail mix to sustain and replenish those on the go. Of course, it entirely depends on what ingredients you make your trail mix with, but traditionally blends including nuts and dried fruits are rich in protein (per Healthline). This means that trail mix has the potential to be one of the healthiest snacks in this guide.

Kettle chips

Despite having been invented in the United Kingdom (via Smithsonian Magazine), potato chips have become an iconic American snack. The South Florida Reporter notes that the average American eats over 6-1/2 pounds of potato chips every year. So, it should come as no surprise that several potato chip brands have made their way into our guide.

The first of these is Kettle, a brand that has become known and loved throughout America thanks to its exciting range of innovative flavors, per Forbes. This is an altogether rare approach in the American chip industry. As explained to Eater by professor of marketing Mark Lang, chip flavors have traditionally been conservative in order to appeal to a mass audience. "A product has to appeal to more than half the people in the country to fit into their factories and take up the millions of units that they put through their factories they need flavors that 60 percent of the population want to buy. That just knocks off all that cool stuff," he said.

However, Kettle has upended this approach, producing chips with flavors like honey Dijon, farmstand ranch, and Korean Barbeque. This has helped transform America's snacking culture into one that more readily embraces a wide range of flavors.

Flamin' Hot Cheetos

While YouGov reports that 91% of Americans have heard of Flamin' Hot Cheetos, they do not feature in this guide solely because of their fame. Instead, they made the list because they singlehandedly kickstarted an American craze for spicy snacks, per the Los Angeles Times.

In a statement to Eater, Frito-Lay (the company that owns the Cheetos brand) said, "Spicy salty snacks have spiked in popularity in recent years with the category growing 12% in the last four years. According to a recent survey, over half (55%) of U.S. consumers have tried Cheetos Flamin' Hot and 46% of Gen Z say they love them. That's why we continue to find new ways to innovate and bring new additions to the Flamin' Hot portfolio."

Every snack seems to be getting the flamin' hot treatment. According to Forbes, there is a general consensus that spice, as a snack flavor, is a trend that is here to stay. 


Chocolate is a huge part of America's snacking culture, with one study by FMCG Gurus finding that 61% of those polled regularly choose to snack on it (via Candy Industry). But why have we chosen Hershey's as our brand of choice when it comes to American chocolate? Well, this is mainly due to the brand's incredible popularity. According to YouGov, Hershey's comes in as the third most popular food and snack brand in the country, and the sixth most popular brand in the nation.

These high levels of popularity are matched by incredible sales. Statista reports that Hershey's brings in an annual global sales revenue of nearly $9 billion, with less than $1 billion made outside of America.

What makes Hershey's products even more vital to America's snacking culture is their ability to be used as an ingredient. According to Statista, a whopping 43 million American consumers use Hershey's chocolate chips to make cookies. This would suggest that, for many Americans, Hershey's doesn't just mean a chocolate bar, but rather an integral part of snacking culture.


As far as potato chip brands go, you can't get much bigger than Lay's. In 2017, Lay's was the biggest potato chip brand in the United States, with sales topping $1.7 billion, as reported by Statista. These sales are reflected by widespread fame; YouGov reports that 97% of Americans are familiar with the brand.

One of the main reasons for Lay's popularity — both nationally and internationally — is the brand's success at releasing special flavors for distinct cultures. This approach has been extremely effective in the United States. For example, Lay's released eight regional flavors in the U.S. as part of its "Tastes of America" campaign, per Marketing Dive. The flavors included Cajun spice, pimento cheese, chili con queso, deep dish pizza, fried pickles with ranch, Chesapeake Bay crab spice, New England lobster roll, and Thai sweet chili. With these exciting flavors, along with the brand's traditional flavors of salt and vinegar, sour cream and onion, and classic, there is a Lay's potato chip to suit every palate. As such, we don't see the brand loosening its grip on the American snack industry anytime soon.


There is no doubt that M&M's are one of America's all-time favorite snacks. Data analyzed by IRI confirmed this, with M&M's coming in as America's highest-grossing candy that is sold in servings heavier than 3.5 ounces (via Candy Industry). The annual total? Nearly $990 million in sales. As with other highly-popular snacks in this guide, M&M's achieves these incredible sales results thanks to a blend of product quality and brand heritage.

There is, perhaps, no other candy that is more intertwined with American history than M&M's. As History reports, M&M's formed part of the United States military rations during World War II and were the very first candy to be eaten in space. Playing a part in these iconic moments has embedded M&M's as one of America's most well-known brands, with YouGov ranking them as the second most popular food and snack brand, and the third most famous brand overall in the country. By combining this with an extremely reliable and simple product, M&M's has made itself one of the most iconic snacks in America and is well-deserving of its place in this guide.


When it comes to snack types in America, the cookie reigns supreme. As reported by Statista, 59% of all Americans say the cookie is their regular snack of choice. And when it comes to cookies in this country, there is one brand that stands head and shoulders above the others: Oreos.

In 2015, The Washington Post reported that Oreos dominated the American cookie market and was responsible for 70% of the sector's growth. Since then, the brand has shown no signs of slowing down, with sales expected to reach $1 billion during 2023, per Market Watch. This continued growth is partly thanks to Oreos producing a number of limited-edition cookies with iconic brands such as Pokémon (via NPR).

While these releases have proven to be hugely popular, Oreos are first and foremost adored because of the taste of the original. In fact, in 2013, Forbes reported on a scientific study that demonstrated how the unique taste of Oreos was so pleasurable that it was comparable to taking hard drugs like cocaine and morphine. No wonder people can't stop eating them. It also doesn't hurt that Oreos are vegan by nature, meaning the company does not exclude vegetarians or vegans from its potential consumer base (via VegNews). 

In short, Oreos are America's favorite cookie, and cookies are America's favorite snack. So, why wouldn't Oreos be included in this guide?

Ben and Jerry's ice cream

Ice cream, which began life as a dessert, has now solidified itself as a popular snack choice in the United States. A survey performed by Packaged Facts reinforced this fact (via Convenience Store News). Research director, David Sprinkle explained, "Far more respondents to Packaged Facts' survey eat ice cream as a snack rather than as a dessert, and they enjoy it throughout the day. More than half consider ice cream an evening snack, about one-quarter consume it as a late-night snack, and another one-quarter as an afternoon snack. Some even snack on ice cream in the morning."

The year-round demand for ice cream has seen many brands rise to prominence, with most supermarkets stocking a wide variety of options. In 2021, the most popular brand was Ben and Jerry's, which sold $936 million of ice cream during the year, per Statista. Ben and Jerry's has achieved great success in the American snack industry thanks to its range of interesting and unique flavors, the most popular of these being Half Baked.

Another facet of Ben and Jerry's that has made it stand out from other ice cream brands is the company's outspoken stance when it comes to social and political issues. As reported by Harvard Business Review the company prides itself on its ability to call out abuses of power, racism, and other social ills, and has garnered a special place in American snackers' hearts for doing so.


There are many ways to calculate which snack is America's favorite. One is to have a vote in each individual state and then see which snack wins the most. This is exactly what Wise Voter did in August 2022. Once the votes were counted, Doritos ended up on top, being voted the most popular snack in 23 states and easily beating M&M's, which came in second with a total of 16.

Like other potato chip companies on this list, Doritos has relied on an increasingly wacky array of flavors and marketing schemes. These include Doritos Loaded (a cheese-stuffed chip), Doritos Roulette (a bag of normal chips infiltrated with a handful of extra spicy ones), and Doritos Jacked (a bag of chips with flavors that vary varies from bag to bag), per The Atlantic. Americans, it seems, have an increasing appetite for boldly flavored, savory snacks.

Yet, there are a few commonalities between nearly all types of Doritos — things that have led them to be labeled the perfect snack food, according to Business Insider. These include the presence of two acids — citric and lactic — that cause your mouth to salivate and lead you to eat more. Nearly all Doritos are high in sugar and salt, as well as being designed to ensure that half the crisp's calories come via fat. Apparently, your body craves this ratio. So, rest assured that it's not your fault you can't stop snacking on Doritos, it's just science.

Reese's peanut butter cups

Coming in as YouGov's most popular food and snack brand, and as the second most popular brand in America overall, Reese's peanut butter cups complete our guide. This is not only because the brand is extremely popular, but also because the mixture of Reese's two main ingredients — peanut butter and chocolate –  has transcended candy and become part of American culture and identity, per Atlas Obscura.

Today, the chocolate-coated peanut butter cups are an iconic part of American life, especially during Halloween. According to a study by Monmouth University (via IFT), 36% of Americans named the candy as their favorite for the spooky celebration, double that of Snickers, which came in second. But Reese's peanut butter cups are not eaten at Halloween alone. In fact, the brand's annual sales now surpass $2 billion, according to PennLive, making them the biggest and most prolific confectionary brand in the United States. As such, you will be hard-pressed to find a more popular or iconic American snack than Reese's peanut butter cups.