Revealed: How the French have developed a growing appetite for snacking

Revealed: How the French have developed a growing appetite for snacking
Photo: AFP
The French are often praised for their food culture including their resistance to the very Anglo habit known as "le snacking", but a new survey reveals times are changing in France.

It appears the French resistance to snacking is finally breaking.

A discussion on French food culture will always include the observation that the French avoid all kinds of snacking in order to save their appetite for their sacred meal times.

But times are changing, a new study has revealed.

For some 86 percent of French people snacking or “le snacking” as it is referred to in French is no longer taboo, according to the survey by Credoc (Center of research for the study and observation of living conditions) for food giant Mondelez International.

The survey that saw around 1,200 French people interviewed, found that some 38 percent of the French snack at least once during the day. Back in 2010 similar studies put that figure at between 20 and 30 percent.

The main reason why the French have taken to snacking is hardly shocking, with 38 percent of Gallic snackers saying they do it for pleasure, while 28 percent admit munching between meals is simply to combat hunger. A further 17 percent say its a way for them to relax and switch off for a while.

But what are the French snacking on?


The French eating habits the world should learn from

For most, the morning munch break would involve snacking on fruit, biscuits or cereal while the afternoon snack, which has its own name in French: Le Goûter, is much more likely to be chocolate or sweet biscuits.

The tradition of Le Goûter in France goes all the way back to childhood, writes blogger Jackie McGeown, who runs the site Best France Forever.

“4 o'clock is when French children have their after-school snack,” she writes.

“Known as le goûter or simply le quatre heures, this period of the day is quite an institution in France.

“Its purpose is to keep kids going until dinner time (French children generally eat later than Brits) and usually takes the form of a cake/biscuit/bread, plus milk/juice and some fruit. Strictly speaking, adults are meant to have grown out of needing this afternoon boost but they do indulge in le goûter, particularly on family occasions.”

The survey also revealed the final snack of the day, just before bedtime is also likely to be chocolate.

But the Credoc study also revealed another Gallic eating habit is changing.

For a growing number of people (42.2 percent) the evening dinner is often replaced by what the French call an “apéro-dînatoire” which basically sees the traditional pre-meal aperitif drink turn into an informal meal with things like toasts and spreads, crisps, olives, charcuterie, carrots and dips etc.

This switch for a traditional evening meal to what is often drinks and nibbles around a coffee table with friends takes place mostly at the weekend.

The change in culture is not without its downsides, not least in terms of health. Snacking on biscuits and chocolates could lead to health issues, not least weight gain and diabetes and replacing a traditional meal with crisps and charcuterie, known for increasing the risk of cancer, is obviously not beneficial to the health.