Demand for snacks shows no sign of slowing, but the move to healthier eating is having an impact on the items shoppers are reaching for

The snacks category continues to out-perform the rest of the food and beverage market to be worth £41.6bn (Kantar MAT w/e 18 June 20117) and Raj Chandegra, owner of six Londis stores in London, believes the reason is that consumers don’t have time for a proper meal.

“People are always on the go,” he says. “If you look at the working lunch break, nobody gets an hour anymore. It’s more like 10 to 20 minutes, to rush out and pick up a sandwich, crisps and drink.

“Very rarely do people sit down and have a meal at lunchtime. It’s not a healthy way to eat, but it’s people’s lifestyles. It’s good news for us as retailers, as long as you have it right.”

Getting it right, though, requires a bit of research into what today’s shoppers want, says Raj. “You have to keep an eye on market trends,” Raj asserts. “Looking for little tweaks to your store or product range can make a big difference, especially in the snacking category.”

It’s certainly worth making the effort, as figures show about 63% of UK consumers have a snack once a day (Mintel, 2017).

Susan Nash, trade communications manager at Mondelez International, points out that snacking products not only build basket size, but they also drive footfall.

“It’s an important category for retailers to get right,” says Nash. “The majority of snacks are currently consumed at home, but there continues to be a marked shift towards on-the-go consumption. Suppliers must adapt their ranges to tap into this trend by offering easy-to-eat options – and retailers have a key role to play in making them easy to shop.”

Retailers shouldn’t be put off experimenting with their snack offering to make the most of new products on the market, advises Alan Bird, commercial director at Wessanen UK. He says: “Retailers can ensure high customer loyalty and increased basket spend by giving customers new and interesting products in the snacking category. More consumers are looking for snacks that fit in with their busy lifestyles, which means that the need for flexibility in the fixture is growing.

“An increasing number of consumers are diversifying their snacking choices to include better-for-you options. To stay ahead and meet consumer needs, retailers should look to add more variety to their snacking fixture and make it more exciting.”

Wessanen UK’s Mrs Crimble’s brand has recently been given a new identity to provide greater shelf standout to brighten up the free-from fixture and what Bird says can be quite a dull shopping experience for gluten-free customers.

For many shoppers, healthy options are top of the list when it comes to snacking. In North Wales, Conrad Davies, owner of two Eurospar and two Spar stores, believes consumers are more health-conscious these days and his stores now offer more alternative snacks than ever before.

“We sell items such as fruit pots and granola pots with yogurt poured over it. They are a lot healthier than some other snacks and easy to take on the move,” he says.

Raj believes sales of that traditional favourite, crisps, are declining as more healthy alternatives flood the market. He has seen his customers move away from buying crisps that are high in salt and fat, and instead choosing to buy products that are high in fibre and protein.

“Crisps is an area that is starting to be taken over,” he says. “Healthy snacks are selling well, which means crisp sales are going down, not by much, but the category is so big that it is noticeable.”

Vishal Madhu, founder and director of Innovative Bites, points out that consumers are after new and innovative savoury snacks that tick the healthy eating box. “With new and healthier snacks hitting the market all the time, health-conscious consumers are not only looking for new and innovative products, but also modern takes on classic snacking institutions.

“With current trends veering towards healthy on-the-go snack alternatives, we predict that in order for brands to keep up with consumer demand for innovative products, NPD will need to be at the forefront for all manufacturers.”

Innovative Bites offers Elephant pretzels, a twist on pretzel snacks. They are lighter, crispier and flatter than traditional crisps and contain less fat. The range includes flavours such as salt, black & white sesame and mix seeds. The snacks come in 40g bags (rrp 29p), 90g bags (79p) and 180g bags (rrp £1.50).

Madhu says: “They have been designed to be consumed as a standalone snack, or with salads, dipped in cream cheese or hummus, or used as a bread replacement.”


Traditional crisps still have a place, though. Nigel Dowdney, owner of Earlham Shopper & Stalham Shopper in Norfolk, finds his customers tend to head for the less healthy options.

“We sell a huge amount of savoury products and crisps, but we do a far smaller range of healthy products. The most successful brands and flavours get bought by customers every time they come in – and they tend to be the more calorific ones.”

Conrad believes the crisp market is becoming divided, with crisps higher in salt and fat selling better as part of a meal deal. “People have moved away from regular brands and have started to buy popcorn and baked varieties instead,” he says. “Sales of traditional crisps are declining, unless they are in stores with a Subway in. People will pick up a packet of crisps as part of a lunchtime meal deal, so sales are increasing in those areas.”

Conrad believes it’s important to understand these two areas of demand. “The future of traditional crisps and chocolate bars is food to go. Unhealthy crisps aren’t generally being bought as a snack to eat on their own.”

To tap into the healthier eating trend, Pepsico brand Sunbites has added to its line-up with Sunbites Nut Mixes. The range contains both dried fruit and nuts as well as seasoned nut mixes. The nut mixes have the look and feel of Sunbites and are available in both a 90g sharing format and single 35g pack.

The company has also expanded its Baked range with a new Fusions line. The snacks come in Thai chilli & lime, spicy tomato & herbs and Cheddar & red pepper flavours. All three flavours are available in multipacks, with the latter two also available in a single-serve format.

Bigger packs in demand

Mandy Bobrowski, marketing director at Burton’s Biscuit Company, UK & Ireland, says the trend towards sharing formats is helping the savoury snacking category. “The popularity of the Big Night In occasion has grown significantly in recent years and this, coupled with consumer interest in value, has driven demand for sharing formats. Similarly, the Not Going Out occasion – when everyone is at home together and looking for something a little more indulgent or ‘treaty’ – is also in major growth, with share packs representing 88% of Not Going Out sales.”

Shailesh Parekh, owner of three Lifestyle Express service stations in Birmingham, reports that the move to healthier snacking is being driven by the younger shoppers at his store.

He stocks a range of protein bars supplied by USN, Oatein and Goodness Knows. The bars retail up to £2.49 each, but he says his shoppers are still going for them over chocolate bars despite their higher price.

“It’s definitely the young people that are buying them, and not even girls either, it’s mainly blokes,” says Shailesh.

Conrad agrees that age is a factor in what snacks shoppers buy. “Young people buy the more healthy products, whereas middle-aged and older people stick with the more traditional snacks,” he says.

As the demand for protein snacks has grown, Kerry Foods has decided to give its GoGo’s Protein Snacks a refresh. The cheese snack range, which was introduced in February, now has updated packaging and branding.

GoGo’s brand manager Matt Paterson says: “Because the concept of the protein snacks is such a new and innovative addition to the market, we recognise that we need to do more to help consumers understand what they are and their benefits. We wanted to highlight that GoGo’s is more than just a cheese snack.”

Paterson adds: “The brand is performing well by disrupting the shopper in the convenience channel and as part of meal deals.”

Raj has always stocked protein bars but has seen the growth of the category accelerate in recent years. He thinks protein snacks are more versatile than traditional snacks because they can be eaten easily on a bus or train. “Eating on the move and convenience are key to busy commuters because a protein bar, although more expensive, provides a boost to get shoppers through their morning,” he says.

Despite the trend towards healthy eating, Conrad’s customers still like a sweet treat. He finds that people no longer just want a sandwich on its own, so buy the healthy snack option and then the ‘treat me’ product as a reward.

“We have started stocking former Apprentice winner Alana Spencer’s range of cakes, and people are buying them as a ‘treat me’ buy. But we also do a range of tapas boxes selling for £3.99 or £4.49 each. They include lots of healthy products such as rice and vegetables, and we see the same people buying them as we do the cakes.”

As a result, Conrad has cut down on his confectionery offer and instead expanded his range of healthy treats. “The healthy snacks have definitely had an effect on sales of chocolates and sweets, but because we’ve made room for more alternatives in the confectionery aisle, sales have more than made up for the difference in interest.”

Mars adds fruit and nuts treats

Mars Chocolate’s new snacking brand Goodness Knows is aiming to tap into the trend towards quality and healthy snacks.

Trade communications manager Bep Dhaliwal says: “Coming in four snackable squares crammed with fruit, whole nuts, rolled oats and dipped in dark chocolate, Goodness Knows is a tasty, high-quality and shareable treat that can be eaten all at once, or broken up throughout the day.”

The snack is available in three varieties: cranberry & almond; blueberry & almond; and apple, peanut & almond.

Mars Chocolate is giving 10% of all profits to the ‘Goodness Knows Fund’ that helps support community projects and local initiatives.


Mars believes confectionery is still relevant to almost all retailers, with 99% of households purchasing from the category every year. Bep Dhaliwal, trade communications manager at Mars Chocolate, believes it is crucial that the category is well-stocked to maximise snacking opportunities.

She says: “Sharing formats are a growing trend in overall snacking, and confectionery is the fastest growing category in this trend, with consumers increasingly purchasing large pouch chocolate and large block.”

Dhaliwal thinks sharing chocolate will remain popular in the future as “these formats offer good value for money for consumers and are a great snacking option for those looking to share with family or friends”.

She adds: “As people’s lives have become busier, they are looking for snacks that are more convenient, in more flexible formats without compromising on quality.”

Confectionery is still a popular snack at Raj’s store, but he says healthy alternatives are gathering momentum. He says: “People are moving away from confectionery as a snack, but it is still a strong performer. Alternatives such as health bars and protein bits are doing well with adults, but kids especially still want a chocolate bar.”

Nigel agrees. “Adults tend to buy the protein bars because they are more concerned with their health. Parents try to get children to have a banana or an apple as a snack, which we try to support, but most often they make other choices.”

Nigel believes kids don’t care about buying healthy snacks and instead buy sweets and chocolate. He says: “I think it’s going to take legislation to cut down on the amount of sugar and fat in snacks, before people make the right decisions.

“Some people come in and buy a couple of packs of sweets in the morning and then another lot in the afternoon.”

Snacking solutions from Mondelez

Mondelez continues to target the snacking market in categories such as savoury snacks, breakfast on the go, snacking cheese and confectionery.

Ritz Crisp & Thin launched earlier this year as a healthier alternative to other products in the savoury snack category. The Crisp & Thin range is available in 30g packs, designed for the on-the-go occasion, and available in two flavours: cream cheese & onion and sea salt & vinegar.

On-the-go breakfast formats are another important snacking sector for Mondelez. With a third of consumers skipping the meal altogether, retailers can take advantage of this and offer shoppers products to eat while on the move.

Belvita Soft Bakes launched in the convenience channel last year, aiming to address the consumer need for ‘soft’ breakfast items. The range has now achieved £20m retail sales value, making it the second biggest Belvita product platform (Nielsen MAT w/e 12 August 2017).

Snacking cheese accounts for 22% of the total cheese market and is continuing to help drive growth in the both categories. Mondelez International holds a 45% share of the snacking cheese market and Dairylea is the UK’s number one snacking cheese brand (Nielsen to w/e 24 December 2016).

The brand recently introduced Dairylea Dunkers Nachos, containing tomato-salsa flavoured tortilla chips and Dairylea cheese. The range is designed to appeal to shoppers looking for a convenient savoury snack with a flavour twist.

In confectionery, Mondelez recently introduced Cadbury Dairy Milk’s Big Taste Peanut Caramel Crisp and Oreo Mint tablets in the singles category, enabling consumers to enjoy the products on the go and provide retailers with another impulse-driven variety.


Hot snacks

With the food-to-go category now worth £3.9bn and accounting for 894 million trips to stores annually (HIM CTP, 2017), there’s plenty of opportunity to be found in hot snacks.

The growing micro-snacking category provides retailers with sales potential, according to Rustlers. Angela Daulby, channel director for Rustlers, says: “Quick-to-cook micro-snacks are ideal for shoppers looking for hot and tasty products that can be heated in-store or at home. With 65% of shoppers saying that Rustlers in food to go would encourage them to go to that store (Brand Potential Bespoke Research Study, July 2017), we’re working very closely with retailers to educate them on the right range for them and merchandising best practice.”

Rustlers launched its gourmet range of hot snacks in March, to tap into the growing high-street gourmet food trend. Daulby adds: “Some 70% of shoppers have been on a lunch food-to-go mission in the past month, but they still want more hot food options, particularly at lunchtime (IGD Retail Analysis 2017). The market-leading Rustlers range enables retailers to tap into the fast-growing hot food-to-go occasion.”

Vincent Brook, head of retail UK at Aryzta Food Solutions, says food-to-go snacks also provide in-store theatre that can drive customers to make additional purchases.

“We offer the widest possible choice of food-to-go products and work closely with our customers to identify which products are best-suited to their shoppers, in the knowledge that by offering freshly-baked lines they are going to attract new customers and increase profits,” he says.

“Pierre’s and Cuisine de France products are baked fresh in-store, with shoppers citing the scent of freshly-baked products and the overall quality of the product range as key drivers for repeat purchase.”

Brook says the Pierre’s serve-assist range includes on-trend varieties such as pulled pork and sweet potato fries, as well as contemporary twists on established favourites, enabling retailers to make food to go a focal point in-store.

“Retailers can also order more traditional options including BBQ chicken wings, chicken fillet goujons, Southern fried chicken poppets and potato wedges, as well as meal deal boxes,” Brook adds.

Sivakumar Pandian, store manager of Nisa Virginia Quay, in London, thinks offering hot snacks not only adds store theatre, but has a knock-on effect on sales across the store. He says: “It’s good because customers will buy other things such as chocolate and a packet of crisps to go with their [hot] food.”

Sivakumar agrees that the market is moving away from proper meals, particularly at lunchtimes, but points out that maintaining a strong hot snack offering isn’t straight forward. “You always need extra staff when running the [hot food] machines, which isn’t always easy in the convenience store business.”

Raj believes that hot snacks won’t work for every store and owners should be careful not to jump in without doing their homework.

“The problem with the hot snack market is that products have a short life span,” Raj explains. “In other categories, you can leave stock out for two or three days if you need to. Hot food goes out of date and it’s difficult to control. It’s not just about the level of waste, but the quality of product you are offering. I don’t want to jeopardise my reputation by selling inferior food that has been hanging round all day.”

Raj believes the energy, time and effort required to make hot food a success isn’t worth it if you can’t get the balance of quality and convenience. “If customers aren’t happy with the product and complain that their sausage roll is dry or their pasty is soggy, then the whole exercise is a waste of time.”

Customers used to come into Nigel’s stores to buy hot snacks regularly, but he says the novelty soon wore off. “We used to do hot pies and had a Golden Wonder Pot Noodle machine,” Nigel says. “When we first got it, it went down a storm and the customers loved it.

“Hot snacks only work if you have the right demographic and you’re in the right place. It makes sense in a town centre store, where there are people in offices but where we are with a junior and infant school opposite, it doesn’t work.”

After a new local bakery started doing hot snacks a few doors away, Nigel decided to get rid of his hot snacks machine and returned to selling cold snacks instead. “Our focus has changed. We have gone in a different direction by still doing pies and sandwiches, but have decided not to heat them up.

Superbars full of superfoods

Superfood brand Naturya has introduced a range of Superbars it claims contain only half the sugar of other bars.

Naturya has joined forces with chefs David Jones and Jonny Bingham to create a range of organic, nutrient-rich, nutritionally-balanced bars that use unrefined maple syrup, cacao butter and agave inulin to bind and sweeten.

The SuperBars range (rrp £1.99) comprises three flavours – berry, seed and cacao – containing at least seven superfoods including acai, maca, lucuma, goji berries, chia seeds, mulberries, golden berries, hemp seeds and cacao.

Naturya marketing director Ali Wilde said: “In launching these bars we want to raise the category standard for healthy snacking. Our organic superfoods come with the added benefit of being ethically and sustainably sourced through direct relationships with our suppliers, many of which come from developing countries.”



Food to go and snacking make a great partnership, according to Hannah Morter, marketing executive at Country Choice. She says: “Grab and go is a proven footfall driver – an operator with a good offer will quickly establish a reputation in the area and shoppers will build a visit into their routine – ie breakfast on the way to work, treats for the kids after school pick-up.

“When it comes to promoting grab and go products then by far and away the most successful mechanic is a meal deal – there is very little leverage to be had from promoting single items. The actual discount does not need to be great as this is all about making it easier for the consumer through effective merchandising and strong POS. Putting a small premium on the food item will allow headroom for the discount in the meal deal.”

Nick Widdowson, merchandising & creative controller at Unilever, advises retailers to cater for customers’ needs by making their snack shopping “quick and easy”.

He says: “About 25% of c-store shoppers are going in for food to eat now (HIM data), so the mission offers retailers a huge opportunity. Get it right and shoppers will be back – and probably often. Get it wrong and they won’t bother.”

Changing store layout according to shopper missions, such as food for now, is more productive than just laying out the store by traditional categories, he says.

“Category management is about having the right product on the shelf to meet your customers’ needs and merchandising it effectively. Fulfilling shopper missions is about putting the products that people buy together next to each other to make the shopping trip quicker and easy – key needs for convenience store shoppers.”

For Conrad, putting snacking displays around his stores provide incremental sales. “At the front of the store we have stands of Graze bars, Naked bars and Nature Valley bars that people can pick up as soon as they come in. This makes lunchtime snacking very popular.”

Pierre Jackson, category insights controller at Pepsico, believes that consumers expect retailers to position snacks at multiple locations around their store. For example, ‘near confectionery’, ‘at the sandwich chiller’ and ‘at the till point’.

“Only 21% of shoppers in independent and symbols stores know what they intend to buy before they visit a store (PepsiCo Convenience research 2016),” Jackson asserts. “So there is a real opportunity to influence what they purchase once they enter a store.

Jackson believes cross-merchandising snacking products with other relevant categories will boost basket spend. “With many shoppers buying on impulse, maximise these purchases through great displays and visibility around the store. More shoppers buy single-serve savoury snacks when it is merchandised front of store with juice and sandwiches, or at the till point.”

“In addition, we know that customers often buy salty snacks alongside soft drinks and beer, wines and spirits so use secondary locations in these areas to encourage more sales.”

Dan Newell, confections marketing manager at Wrigley, points out that the snacking category can be used to increase sales in other categories, such as gum.

Newell believes that as snacking occasions increase, it is more important than ever to ensure teeth are kept clean throughout the day. “Chewing sugar free gum for as little as 20 minutes after consuming food or drink is a great addition to twice-a-day brushing because it increases the production of saliva. This not only helps with the clearance of food debris, but also helps to neutralise plaque acids and remineralise tooth enamel.”

So from chewing gum to protein bars, with crisps, chocolate and food to go in between, the snacking category looks a lot different today than it did a few years ago, and retailers need to ensure that their offer reflects shoppers’ changing tastes.

Popcorn goes indulgent

With the UK popcorn category tripling in size over the past five years (Nielsen Scantrack, 2017), Pop Works & Company has introduced two new products – Glazed & Glory and Drizzled Delights – aimed at shoppers looking for a premium and indulgent snacking option.

The line-up includes three flavours for Glazed & Glory (rrp £1.70) – strawberry cheesecake, sticky toffee pudding and toffee apple; and three for Drizzled Delights (rrp £2) – milk chocolate & caramel, dark & milk chocolate and dark chocolate & orange.

Pepsico marketing director Thomas Barkholt says: “We’re committed to driving innovation into the market and delivering products which are able to provide a unique point of difference for shoppers and retailers. With these innovations we would like to showcase the brand’s commitment to pushing the boundaries to deliver an indulgent multi-sensory taste experience.”

In the past year, 25% of growth in the popcorn segment has come from new products, with Pop Works & Company contributing almost half of all npd in the category (Nielsen Scantrack, w/e 29 April 2017).