It’s that time of year again, when avocado marketers gear up to supply Super Bowl party snackers with ample supplies for guacamole.

But new market research by the NPD Group indicates fresh produce’s role in snacking is way bigger than just being a dip for chips.

A new NPD study finds fresh fruit is eaten as a snack more often than any sweet or salty snack food, making it the top snack choice of U.S. consumers.

NPD’s “Snacking in America” survey says fresh fruit is eaten 55 times as a snack per year per capita, besting chocolate, potato chips, nuts, cookies and other traditional snacking favorites.

The study strongly suggests the money, time and effort produce marketers have invested in advances in packaging and merchandising are paying off.

From apple slices at McDonald’s to Naturipe’s Berry Quick blueberry snack packs to Crunch Pak’s Disney-themed Foodles line, marketers are showing what’s possible through proper portioning, convenient packaging, product pairing and cartoon character licensing.

NPD’s study suggests snacking makes up one-fifth of Americans’ food consumption, and its findings show people with the healthiest diets snack twice as often as those with the least healthy diets.

That’s a lot of eating occasions, and, coupled, with U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines calling for half a plate of fresh produce every mealtime, fruits and vegetables may be beginning to play a starring role in Americans’ diets.

While the survey only mentions fruit, vegetable snacks featuring baby carrots or celery with dip are well positioned to follow the lead of fruit snacks.

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