With salt labelled ‘public enemy number one’ by health officials you might think that sales of crisps and nuts would be under pressure. If so, you’d be wrong, as according to AC Nielsen data for the 52 weeks ending July 12, the total crisps, snacks and nuts market is worth £1.99bn and is growing at 5.9%.

The Nielsen data also reveals that more than nine billion packs of crisps, snacks and nuts are eaten each year, with 97.3% of households buying into the category, a figure which is up from 96.8% in 2007.

Obviously, there have been changes to many of the products with some of the offending salt removed, bad fats replaced with better ones and artificial nasties taken out. And these changes could have led to more people buying into the category, but then again it could just be a case of people loving their salty snacks.

Walkers is the number one manufacturer in the category. In 2006 its core range switched to being cooked in sunseed oil, which reduced products’ saturated fat content by up to 80%. In addition salt levels were reduced by up to 25%. Similar changes were made to other lines including Doritos and Sensations last year. 

All round, manufacturers are taking a healthier approach to snacks, but even so the better-for-you crisps, nuts and snacks sector is still worth just £138m. However, it is growing at a rate of 20%. Walkers does best with a 63% share of the sector with brands such as Baked and SunBites.

The company says Baked is the most successful new product launch in the crisps and snacks category of the past three years. It’s already worth £37m and is expected to grow further thanks to a £3m investment in consumer support this year. There has also been the launch of a bigger bag (37.5g), presumably because people think Baked is so much better for them that they can eat more. And both Baked and SunBites are now available in 95g sharing bags.

Meanwhile, the Ryvita brand is venturing into the crisps aisle with new Limbos. Ryvita category manager Lucy Overton says Ryvita Minis already perform well in convenience, as they are popular with women on the go. However, with Limbos the company is going for a wider audience – the whole family. The product is baked, not fried, and contains 90% less fat than regular crisps. It comes in three very mainstream flavours: cheese & onion, salt & vinegar and smokey bacon. All variants have no artificial colours or preservatives and are a source of fibre. Each 18g bag contains about 70 calories. Rrp is 49p.

Consumer demand for more natural products is helping Kettle Chips become one of the UK’s fastest growing grocery brands. According to Nielsen data its sales are up by more than 28% in the past 12 months and the brand is showing growth of almost £15m year on year. The brand is doing particularly well in the impulse sector, with sales up 31.6% year on year. And the 40g bag is one of the fastest growing adult/premium small bags in impulse with sales up by 33.7% over the past 12 weeks.

Kettle Foods managing director Andrew Slamin says: “We believe consumers will continue to trade up to premium crisps and snacks with added value through healthier ingredients and less processed offerings. For convenience retailers to capitalise on the trend we recommend stocking a core range of the most popular flavours of Kettle Chips: lightly salted; sea salt & balsamic vinegar; and sea salt with crushed black peppercorns.

“It’s key to maximise the convenience for consumers by offering occasion-driven solutions at the point of purchase – for example, by dual-siting Kettle Chips alongside sandwiches and soft drinks to drive the basket spend of lunchtime trade, or alongside alcohol to promote sharing evening consumption.” 

Kettle Foods recently developed a grab tower for its 40g bags. A successful trial through its field sales force and Budgens generated sales uplifts of more than 130%, so the tower is now available to all convenience accounts.

As for new flavours, August saw the launch of sour cream & chives in a 40g bag, alongside the successful 150g version. And this month mature Cheddar & red onion will be available in the 40g size. 

Go nuts

Another company doing well is Sun Valley with its varied range of healthy snacks which includes the You Are What You Eat (YAWYE), King of Nuts and Loyd Grossman brands.

Marketing manager Jonathan Barr says YAWYE is the fastest growing nut brand, while King of Nuts and the Loyd Grossman indulgent nut mix range have both been listed by Palmer & Harvey and Nisa.

King of Nuts was previously an on trade-only brand, but has been launched to the retail trade, with retailer support including pos. Clip strips are available for those retailers with limited space, as well as eye-catching branded display cartons.

Sticking with nuts, and UBUK has recently refreshed KP Nuts’ packaging and launched new products, as well as introducing a new clip strip merchandising unit.

UBUK commercial manager Nick Stuart says the clip strips allow retailers to secondary site KP Nuts’ most popular salted and dry roasted peanut lines. He recommends locating these within the beer, wine and spirits section to encourage cross-category purchases. 

Following the success of its Baked & Seasoned nuts, UBUK has launched Baked & Seasoned Mixes. Chilli & lemongrass with sweet fire red pepper pieces and sea salt & rosemary with toasted pumpkin seeds varieties are available. 

Finally, the Dormen’s nuts brand has been around since 1992 in the foodservice industry but is now in the convenience sector. Sales director Mark Cuddigan says Dormen’s uses only first grade nuts. “We sell premium quality nuts, but they are still quite competitive. Rrp is £1.59 for a 100g bag of cashews, for example.”

He says people are becoming more adventurous, moving away from peanuts and eating cashews, pistachios and smoked almonds instead.
Retailers’ views
Kathryn Smith, Smiths Corner Stores, Grimoldby, Lincolnshire:“The healthy eating trend hasn’t hit Lincolnshire yet. We’ve tried stocking healthier crisps but they just don’t sell very well. We tried three flavours of Walkers Baked, but we are now just down to one – cheese & onion. Our best sellers are still Walkers standard crisps in cheese & onion and ready salted – people round here like their crisps and their cream cakes! We also tried rice cakes but we are now down to a very limited range for a couple of local women who are on diets.”Lorna Hancox, Spar, Much Wenlock, Shropshire:“We are currently up 21% on crisps and snacks, but we have had some good promotions. Walkers six-packs were on buy one get one free. Apart from Walkers, we do well with a local brand called Heart of England, plus Kettle Chips and Pringles. We tried Walkers Baked but they sold only when they were on promotion. People don’t seem to be that bothered about the healthier lines and most of the standard lines such as Hula Hoops have got less salt and fat in them nowadays anyway.”Paul Kennedy, Kennedy’s Convenience Store, Burnley:“We sell about 3,500 bags of crisps a week. We are part of the Premier group so we sell whatever it recommends and whatever’s on offer. Walkers and Seabrooks are the biggest sellers. We haven’t noticed any changes in people’s buying habits – they might be going for healthier sandwiches but they are sticking to the crisps they like.”
Pringles goes upmarket
The big news from Pringles is the brand’s move into glossy bags for its new premium line.Pringles Select are smaller than standard Pringles chips and come in six flavours. However, brand owner Procter & Gamble says the core range for c-stores is four: Italian cheese & garlic; Thai sweet chilli; sea salt & balsamic vinegar; and spicy Szechuan.The snacks come in 150g bags with a rrp of £1.48, in shelf-ready display outers of 12.Pringles Select is aimed at sharing occasions – the ‘friends round for a night in’ type of thing. Pringles assistant brand manager Catriona Pitcairn says that currently 31.3% of ‘large sharing bag’ buyers (6.4 million households) do not buy into ‘large sharing premium bags’ so there is a huge opportunity for the product. Pringles already has the highest penetration of any large sharing brand with 54% of UK households buying the products.Says Pitcairn: “Pringles Select offers retailers a big opportunity, especially when you consider that premium large snack consumers spend twice as much on crisps and snacks each year – £15.03 versus £6.73.”The launch is backed by a marketing campaign which will include sampling, TV and press advertising. And Pitcairn points out: “With Pringles Rice Infusions, 44% of sales occurred in the first 13 weeks of launch.”
Look out for......
● Marmite rice cakes and Marmite breadsticks from Unilever UK. Both are baked with Marmite yeast extract. They are rich in B vitamins and contain no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Both come in 30g bags, rrp 59p.● Bertolli Baked Bites from Burton’s Foods. These are light and crispy bites baked in Bertolli Olive Oil. They come in sweet chilli & red pepper, Italian cheese & red onion and sea salt & black pepper, in 30g bags, rrp 49p.● Yorkshire Crisps’ new Henderson’s Relish flavour. Apparently, before the launch people in Yorkshire had been known to shake Henderson’s Relish into a bag of plain crisps. The new variety already has a listing in Parfetts in Sheffield, Halifax and Somercotes. Yorkshire Crisps come in 50g bags, rrp 80p and 100g drums, rrp £1.10.
Bite-size facts
● Of the £1.99bn the UK spends every year on the crisps, snacks and nuts (CSN) category, £533.2m is spent in impulse stores● The impulse CSN category is growing at 4.5%● Independents and symbol group retailers have nearly 2,000 CSN SKUs to choose from, but the top 100 accounts for 71% of sales, worth £228m● Walkers boasts 57 out of the top 100 CSN category SKUs, and 33 of the top 50Source: AC Nielsen MAT 52 weeks ending June 16, 2008