CHICAGO — Almost half of consumers surveyed said they are snacking at least twice a day, up from 25% in 2010, according to market researcher Technomic.

“Recent consumer research indicates that snacking is becoming a larger part of consumers’ daily lives,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice-president. “Pressure from the nutritional disclosure legislation has prompted the food service industry to reduce calorie counts in meals. As a result, Americans are now more inclined to ‘graze’ throughout the day, seeking snacks that provide fuel between traditional meal parts.”

Technomic said restaurants are capitalizing on this trend by providing quick, portable, smaller-portioned, low-priced foods in various ways. Restaurants now represent 22% of consumer snacking occasions, up from 17% in 2010.

Technomic also found major chains are using late-night hours to promote value-oriented snacks and bar plates for younger consumers. In addition 37% of consumers have broadened their definition of snacks to include more types of foods, beverages and restaurant fare, and mini sandwiches, sliders and wraps have evolved from a snack to a downsized gourmet version of a full-sized offering. Impulse purchases of snacks are up from two years ago with 66% reporting most snacks they purchased away from home were impulse, and 33% of consumers expect to eat more healthful snacks in the coming year.