As modern life becomes ever more fast-paced, consumers are more frequently on the search for quick and simple meal replacements and food they can eat on the move. You would think, therefore, that the crisps and savoury snacks category would pretty much sell itself. While it is true that the need for snacks is very much alive and kicking, the requirements have shifted and the choices have expoloded, meaning retailers have to start thinking more carefully about this fruitful category.

Sales of standard crisps are down, according to Mintel, but the overall crisps & snacks category is in growth – IRI data shows the overall snacks category was valued at £3.3bn in March this year – up 0.8% on the previous year.

IRI’s head of strategic insight, retail solutions and innovation, Martin Wood, explains that growth in the overall market is driven by baked snacks and popcorn – which have both benefited from a lot of product development – as well as tortilla chips, all of which are showing double-digit year-on-year growth. This has been at the expense of the biggest sector, traditional crisps, which is down 4.8%.

Pringles gets spicy

Pringles has added a hot & spicy variety to its 40g range as it seeks to further grow sales of its single-serving can. The cans are available now and 59p pricemarked packs will be on-shelf from the beginning of August.

Tyrrells newcomer

New from Tyrrells is My Sweet Potato crisps in lightly sea salted; coconut & lime; and sweet chilli flavours. They are available in 85p (35g) on-the-go bags and £2.49 (125g) sharing bags.

Lower-fat Hoops

Hula Hoops Golden Hoops are a baked version of the popular potato snack. They come in cheese flavour, in a 50g bag (rrp 69p) containing 30% less fat than standard crisps.

Recipe for success

Burts Chips has teamed up with TV chef Dean Edwards to help consumers create the ultimate crisp sandwich. Edwards is creating eight different sandwiches using the crisps and ingredients from the South West, where Burts is from.

Olives made easy

Crespo’s reduced salt 30g single-serve olive pouches are available on clip-
strips of 10. They are already being listed by Spar and Nisa.

Snacks for all

Top Herd is a new meat snack brand available from RH Amar. Top Herd beef, pork and turkey snacks aim to appeal to both men and women.

Retailer Nigel Dowdney who owns the Earlham Shopper and Stalham Shopper in Norfolk, says this is a trend he is seeing. “Crisps are still selling, but nowhere near as much as they did three or four years ago,” he says. “I’m not sure if that’s due to healthy eating or not, but they are slowing down and I’ve cut the range back quite a lot.”

‘Baked not fried’ is a key health message found on many packs of snacks nowadays and it’s certainly hit a home-run when it comes to sales. IRI data reveals that sales of baked snacks are up nearly 20% in the convenience sector (GB 52 weeks ending March 27, 2016).

Wood says: “Baked snacks are becoming more mainstream, driven by promotions in the grocery multiples. Shoppers buy them there, try them, like them and then there’s a trickle down effect in convenience stores.”

Of course, he’s talking about the likes of Ritz Crisp & Thin and Jacob’s Cracker Crisps, among many more.

Pipers tunes into young people

Pipers Crisps has teamed up with Hull charity CatZero, which helps young people not in education, employment or training.

Pipers kicked off its campaign with a one-off donation plus profits from sales of Pipers’ exclusive deckchairs – and will continue with more practical support. The company aims to help the charity deliver its youth development programmes in which participants follow personal action plans, completing tasks and learning personal skills. These may be as basic as cooking to targeted life-skills such as preparing for interviews and giving presentations.

Alex Albone, founder of Pipers Crisps, says: “CatZero is working with some of the most difficult-to-reach young people. We can make a real difference to people’s lives and offer help in many ways.”

Changes in lifestyles have meant that consumers snack more often, according to Susan Nash, trade communications manager at Ritz brand owner Mondelez: “There is a real opportunity for brands like Ritz, which have a strong heritage in baking, to make a mark on the category through exciting innovation that focuses on answering this trend for ‘better for you’ products.”

Hena Chandarana, trade communications controller at United Biscuits, says its success is largely down to the fact that it taps into the expanding area of ‘snackable crackers’ in the bagged snacks market: “These delicious baked ‘hybrids’, offering taste and texture somewhere in between a cracker and a crisp, use time-honoured baking excellence to deliver an unmatchable crunch and fantastic flavours.”

Nigel agrees baked alternatives are more popular now. “We’ve reduced our typical crisps range and increased the alternatives such as baked and ‘popped’ crisps, like the Ritz Thins and Popchips, which contain fewer calories and less fat.”

Following a record year of UK sales in 2015 (retail sales value in grocery grew by 52.3% to £8.5m.) the low-fat crisps brand Popchips launched a ‘be a bit good’ campaign this year which humorously recognises the tokenistic efforts that Brits are prepared to make to be healthy. The campaign promotes a message of balance rather than extreme fitness regimes and fad diets.

Collectively, UB’s savoury bagged snacks range is worth £101m and has seen 4% value growth, with volumes up 8% (Nielsen data to 23 April 2016). Chandarana reports that Jacob’s Mini Cheddars has been one of the best performing brands in the category and that Jacob’s Crinklys has experienced a strong period, too, up 29% in value and 36% in volume year on year (Nielsen data).

Dean Holborn stocks Ritz Crisp & Thin in his two stores and says these sell particularly well when large bags are on promotion at £1.

Ben Patel from Ben’s Supermarket in Minster, Kent, agrees, but says that holds true across the snacks category in general. “Whatever’s on at £1 sells best,” he says. “If a workman comes in and sees a single bag at 70-80p or a bigger bag for £1, he’ll go for the bigger bag because it represents better value.”

Ben adds that most of his customers are doing a basket shop, topping up for needs such as packed lunches, which is why multipacks sell. “From where I am standing now, I can see multipacks of Skips, Quavers and Wotsits all on promotion, and they sell well.”

As for health, Nigel says: “We have tried to offer healthier options – we’ve tried non-fried and non-potato, but it’s a bit of a niche market. One of our shops is next to the University of East Anglia and I know students haven’t got a massive reputation for healthy eating, but they are looking at things with less saturated fat and less salt.”

Ben adds: “I think people are beginning to eat more healthily and are aware of calories.”

One of the snack categories that has really benefited from its perceived health benefits is popcorn. Indeed, IRI data reveals sales are up nearly 24% in convenience. And it would seem there is plenty of opportunity for growth as IRI’s Wood says popcorn is under-represented in c-stores.

Well-known brand names such as Propercorn, Tyrrells’ Poshcorn and Ten Acre are thriving thanks to this perception. These brands state their snacks’ health benefits on the front of packs, and with some only containing about 60 calories, they’re ideal as a permissible treat.

Unilever UK is hoping to get in on the popcorn growth with a link-up with the Joe & Seph’s brand and a Marmite-flavoured line. Senior licensing manager Chloe Irwin says: “The popcorn category is one of the biggest success stories of the past five years, more than doubling in size from 2010 to 2015 and growing 30% last year.”

The Marmite popcorn creates a new sweet and savoury caramel and marmite popcorn (rrp £2.99 per 75g bag or 99p for 21g impulse packs).

Popcorn brand gets tear and share packaging

Propercorn has unveiled a new sharing format in a bid to extend the brand’s reach.

The packs feature a pinch-and-tear panel on the front of the pack that can be easily removed to create a bowl for sharing. The sharing bags can still be opened in the traditional way from the top of the pack.

Propercorn accounted for almost half of total value sales growth in RTE popcorn singles in 2015 (IRI) and has now set its sights on the growing sharing category.

The brand’s co-founder Ryan Kohn says: “Sharing is in growth, but wellbeing remains top of the agenda, with people increasingly demanding tastier, healthier snack alternatives to enjoy with friends, or at work. Our tear to share format is a real first in popcorn and we’re hugely excited by its potential to really drive the growth of the sharing category.

“We have worked closely with our retailers and shoppers to identify new sharing occasions for popcorn and the most suitable formats to fit these. Our sharing bags provide consumers with a really versatile, healthy solution for various snacking occasions, be it in business meetings, at picnics or with drinks at home – they’re all spaces in which we’re keen to encourage healthier snacking and sharing.”

The tear to share packaging was unveiled on the brand’s market-leading sweet & salty and lightly sea salted flavours in 
June this year, with the same dimensions, weight and £1.69 rrp of their original sharing bags.

Dean has chosen to stock some of the more premium super-indulgent variants. He says: “We discovered Joe & Seph’s at this year’s National Convenience Show,” he says. “It’s a very indulgent treat. Lots of people are conscious of their health, but it’s not at the top of everyone’s agenda. And I think that even people who are eating healthily like to indulge now and again. This popcorn is very top-end. Bags sell at £3.25 and they are not big bags. We’ve put some on the counter and people say ‘blimey they’re expensive’, but they buy them to see what they’re like because at that price they understand that they should be good.”

Tyrrell’s has a limited-edition strawberries & cream Poshcorn for this summer, while Ten Acre has a series of innovative and imaginatively-named flavours including ‘pastrami in the rye’ and ‘Lucia Popperley’s cappuccino’. Propercorn has also experimented with flavours and even embraced the trend for nuts by creating a smooth peanut & almond flavour.

Kettle Chips has introduced a new limited-edition to its range of hand-cooked sharing chips which replaces the winter seasonal of Soy, ginger, chilli & honey. Available now, chorizo, feta & olive will be available throughout summer.

Andrew Slamin, marketing director at Kettle Foods, says seasonal editions of premium crisps play a key role in delivering flavour innovation in the category and generating consumer excitement.

Nuts is another snack category pinpointed for further growth. “The convenience sector’s share of nuts is small yet this category is driving massive value growth for the supermarkets,” says Wood. Although big in evening sales, nuts are not a natural lunchtime purchase, but Wood says there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be and points to their convenience, in that they take up little space and are ideal for dual siting.

When it comes to nuts, some shoppers will buy only KP. Thanks to this loyal following, the KP Nuts brand is worth £59m in retail sales value and growing 7.7% year on year (Nielsen data), and has contributed to more than half of the growth of the nuts segment.

Protein push

The fact that 44% of shoppers are interested in buying products 
that are naturally higher in protein (Kantar Worldpanel data) is great news for the burgeoning meat snacking category.

Nielsen data has the category growing at a rate of 5.4% year on year, making it one of the fastest-growing sub-sectors within the total cooked meats category.

According to Ian Garret, convenience sales controller at Kerry Foods, there is still room for growth as penetration remains relatively low at 21.8%.

Garret says Kerry Foods is building adult snacking sales through innovations such as Mattessons Savagers, Strip Sticks, Mediterranean Kitchen Bites and tertiary brand Meateors. He adds that the company is also driving teen snacking though its Fridge Raiders brand with new multipack formats.

“We have also been working in partnership with retailers to merchandise meat snacks such as Mattessons Fridge Raiders front of store, which has helped to drive single pack purchases,” says Garret.

Pavan Chandra, senior marketer at Peperami, also believes there is potential for expanding meat snacks’ reach. According to Nielsen data Peperami accounts for 70% of meat snacking sales growth within the impulse market.

“The meat snack market is young, with plenty of room for further growth. While Peperami is the brand leader in meat snacks, we are working hard to innovate to our consumers’ needs and to bring meat snacking to an even wider audience.”

The products are now in upgraded foil packaging with a refreshed logo. And in response to consumer demand for ‘improved functionality’ on sharing bags, there’s now a re-close label on 270g and 450g packs. Catering to the needs of the convenience channel, the brand has launched its chilli flavour in a new 50g pack and introduced a £1 pricemarked pack across its original salted, dry roasted, salt & vinegar and chilli variants.

If you’re looking for nuts in familiar flavours, the Captain Tiptoes ‘P Nut’ range inspired by traditional crisp varieties could be the answer. They are available in classic favourites including cheese & onion, crispy duck and salt & vinegar. The low-in-sugar nuts come in 51g packs featuring a sleeve containing a peel-top individual-serve pot.

“Flavoured nuts have been a key driver of growth in the snacking sector,” explains managing director Simon Hurley. “By reducing our use of sugar by more than 50%, we’re able to offer a healthier alternative without compromising on the bold flavours that consumers have come to expect from Captain Tiptoes.”

Despite this plethora of ‘healthy’ snacking options, crisps are still an important aspect of the snacks category, but they need to be merchandised correctly. Dean feels he gets his crisps range right by sticking to the Walkers’ planogram of core flavours. He also makes sure to keep a mix of standard crisps and ‘posher’ options such as Tyrrell’s and Kettle.

Manish Godhania, Marwood Convenience Store, Leicester, agrees that Walkers is an important brand for him. “Walkers is a big brand for us and we stock a lot of their flavours. They’re all big sellers. We always carry their promotional packs. At the moment we are stocking the Spell a Destination packs; things like this always help sales.”

Ross Newham, Costcutter, Exeter, is signed up to Walkers Counts for More Scheme. He says: “I think it’s really good as I have got free stock out of it. Their rep visits me every six weeks and keeps me up to date with things, plus I get regular emails. It’s good to be kept updated and the free stock is always nice!”

IRI’s Wood says the crisp sector’s performance would have been worse had it not been for the introduction of Walkers Tear ‘n’ Share, which he describes as “a big launch that has shored up the market”. He says that in 12 weeks, Tear ‘n’ Share achieved £3.6m-worth of sales in supermarkets and £600,000-worth in convenience.

For anyone who missed it, Tear ‘n’ Share was launched in January. Flavours of lightly salted, salt & malt vinegar, Cheddar cheese & onion, sticky BBQ ribs and sweet chilli crisps come in a bag that turns into a bowl for sharing occasions.

Sticking with innovation, KP Snacks says its McCoy’s brand is making a “bold move” with its first-ever flat crisp. KP says the new McCoy’s Thick Cut range has been introduced to recover the declining flat crisp consumption among young male consumers and they say it does deliver on flavour, despite the loss of ridges. KP Snacks trading controller convenience Matt Collins says: “We know that the current flat crisp offering isn’t meeting consumer demand. Shoppers want a snack that will satisfy their appetite between meals and are turning to alternatives that are more filling. With this in mind, we’ve developed Thick Cut, a hunger-busting range of flat crisps that delivers on flavour.”

The crisps are available to convenience retailers in 50p price-marked and non-pricemarked 35g handypacks in BBQ chicken and Cheddar & red onion flavours.

There’s no doubt that there are lots of snacks to choose from, you just need to pick the ones that are right for your customers. Wood says some c-stores are a bit conservative in what they stock, but adds there are big sales opportunities out there – in particular, think baked, popcorn and nuts.

Flavours to savour

Burts says that while the health trend means that retailers must provide customers with lighter options to achieve strong sales success, they shouldn’t forget that taste is still the predominant factor driving purchase.

Simon Knight, sales and marketing director at Burts Chips, explains: “While ‘healthier’ encourages a trial buy, ‘tastier’ ensures repeat purchase. This makes way for even greater retailer profits should retailers consider both factors when deciding which products to stock.”

Burts brought mischief to the snacking category by teaming up with the Wychwood Brewery to create a new chip flavour: Hobgoblin Spit Roast Steak Chips. They were introduced in 2015 as part of the Hobgoblin’s 21st Century crusade to ‘Bring Taste to the Nation’ and have grown rapidly in popularity. The product boasts meaty flavours of roasted steak combined with Hobgoblin premium ale to create a smoky barbeque finish.

This summer Hobgoblin is back with an unexpected flavour that combines roasted ham, Hobgoblin Gold premium beer and pickle: hamageddon. Available now in 40g packs they extend a partnership already worth nearly £400,000.