It’s difficult to discuss snacking within the convenience channel without referencing the economic downturn and how consumers are consoling themselves with inexpensive treats. But while value is becoming an increasingly important factor in the snacking category, there are still significant profit opportunities in the market for the retailer who has the right range and is willing to experiment with their offering.


The penetration level of crisp and potato/grain-based snacks in the UK (Mintel 2013)

Chris Gott, managing director at Palmer and Harvey’s Snacksdirect division, says that even though snacks represent an affordable treat, customers are still looking for good value products that meet their needs. “Last year’s wet weather affected the potato harvest and commodity prices increased, and in turn the average retail price has gone up,” he says. “This, coupled with the tough economic climate, has led to consumers continuing to look for value in their snacking. We’re seeing growth on our sharing range, specifically the £1 bags.”

Gott says that many retailers are getting the basics of snacking wrong and could be doing it better, with a little support from suppliers. “Fundamentally, the industry just needs to focus on helping retailers with their ranging, merchandising, displays and promotions,” he says. “Too many retailers are still not stocking the best sellers, while shelves are cluttered with too many unrecognisable products. I fear retailers are missing out on sales and their shoppers will form a perception that the convenience retailer doesn’t meet their needs.

“There are a few easy wins here, the easier you make it for shoppers to pick up a snack, the more likely they are to do so,” adds Gott. “The easy wins are stocking bagged snacks such as sharing bags near to soft drinks and alcohol, this is likely to boost impulse purchasing. Having a selection of dips nearby can help to boost sales too.”

He also stresses the importance of secondary display units in the snacking category. “Shoppers often don’t realise that they want a packet of crisps when they come into a store, but if they see additional dump bins sited at key secondary points inside the shop, they’ll be much more likely to pick up a packet,” says Gott. “Having bagged snacks sited next to sandwich and drinks chillers can also boost sales.”

Ivan Cross, snacks market strategy and planning director at KP Snacks, agrees with Gott on the value issue and says it has helped the category evolve. “Shoppers are still seeking value-for-money in day-to-day snacking purchases,” he says. “Crisps, snacks and nuts remain a great value-for-money offer with multipacks being a firm family favourite for lunch box occasions throughout the week. While price will remain a key focus for the snacking category over the next year, added value will be of great importance. Price-marked packs offer shoppers visible value for money and the reassurance that they are getting a good deal.

Retailer view

“We do very well on snacking as a lot of our customers enjoy a night in on a regular basis. To cater for this we make sure we have plenty of share-size bags of snacks in the store that are displayed prominently for them and are close to the alcohol section. Snacking products also figure heavily in our regular run of promotions so that we are able to offer the best value for customers which is increasingly becoming a priority for many of them.

“A large porportion of our customer base is made up of schoolchildren so it’s vital that we have snacks that are suitable for this age group. We have a large display of single bags of crisps that is located beside the confectionery section that caters for the on-the-go snacking demand. And we also have a Bake & Bite food to go offering which is perfect for those that want a larger or a warm snack.”

Manish Jadav, Go Local Extra, Bradford

“The general interest in value-added snacking has increased thanks to the introduction of new flavours and new products helping to trade up shoppers and drive overall value into the category,” he continues. “An example of this within nuts is the recent raft of added-value NPD like KP Cashew and Nut Mixes or coated and flavoured peanuts from other brands or own label.”

Wholesalers have got in on the value act as well and to help retailers provide a value for money offering, Spar revamped its own-label snack range last year. The packaging on the entire range was modernised and has proven to be a success, seeing 12% sales growth. Both share size and individual packs proved to be popular, with its Spar Burger Bites being the best selling line.

Spar brand director Susan Darbyshire says that snacking can be more than simply crisps without stretching customer finances too far.

“Snacks and cakes are also perfect for convenience retailers as they are ideal for impulse selling at the till next to lunchtime snacks,” she says. “The competitive £1 price mark across the range also helps attract shoppers looking for value as well as quality products. With shoppers’ budgets especially tight in 2013, the £1 Value promotion is a great way to show customers they can find fantastic value for money in their local Spar store.”

Snacks on the move

Snacking is a vital part of the mix for all c-stores, but particularly for forecourt retailers.

In the Palmer and Harvey Forecourt report, released last year, it was revealed that snack items such as confectionery, soft drinks, sandwiches and crisps make up an average 29% of a forecourt shop’s annual sales, compared to 17% of sales in convenience stores.

The report compared sales at regular suburban and town centre convenience stores to forecourts, revealing that petrol stations sell two and a half times as many sandwiches, one and a half times as many savoury slices, 13% more confectionery and nearly double the number of energy drinks.

Palmer and Harvey commercial and sales managing director Martyn Ward says there is a great opportunity for forecourt retailers to cash in on snacking. “Forecourts are the snacking capital of the UK, as drivers are more likely to go for impulse purchases and pick up foods and drinks to consume right away,” he says. “Rising fuel prices mean that motorists are likely to visit the forecourt more often to refuel which means more opportunity to grow non-fuel purchases. This is why a lot of petrol stations should be focusing as much, if not more, attention on the shop than on the pumps.”

The research also revealed that petrol stations sell nearly twice as much chewing gum as convenience stores and 100% more 500ml bottles of soft drinks.

“Forecourts are often the local convenience store to those who live nearby, but the drive-through shopper/refueller is still their key market,” adds Ward. “Motorists want to snack, and petrol stations are more likely to succeed if they understand and cater to that market.”

Spar isn’t the only company to realise that snacking goes beyond bags of crisps and nuts and that retailers need to stock products that suit any time of the day. Reccently-rebranded direct-to-store distributor Kerryfresh has launched a new range of sandwiches and snacks to ensure retailers can offer everything their snack-hungry customers may crave.

Kerryfresh customer marketing controller Richard Tyler explains that retailers have the potential to do more for their customers from a snacking point of view. “Retailers can do more to improve their chilled snacking category and make it easy for customers to navigate it,” he says. “There is a great opportunity there, especially as chilled food to go has started outperforming total chilled. Retailers need to realise it’s more than just bagged snacks and that they can align a number of products, both chilled and ambient in a snacking offering.”

He says that the choice of chilled snacks is currently quite limited in the convenience channel. “Diversification is important within convenience, in fact it’s expected by customers now, so make sure your range has plenty of options that suit your customer base,” says Tyler. “If you provide an offering with plenty of options then customers will remain loyal to your store and perhaps even pay a little more for top quality products and a wide range.”

Tyler also urges retailers to make shoppers aware of the meal deal option that will include snacks. “A model to look at is the M Local system which has an ‘A-B-C’ approach that makes it very easy for the retailer to communicate to customers how the mechanism works and what is available in each tier of the offer,” he says. “But just start off with a sandwich and one other item to see how it works and if it will be successful in your store. Starting off small gives you a good entry point without too much risk or investment. And don’t forget to consider fruit as a snack. Kerryfresh has launched a handy range of fruit packs that provide an easy option for retailers to have a healty choice for their customers.”

Ginsters has also changed its approach to snacking with a range refresh and extension, including an added focus on health. Increasing its range by 50%, the updated offering has been developed to respond to changing consumer demand, offering new formats and flavours to appeal to a broad range of tastes and occasions. The new range will include premium batch sandwiches, new flatbreads, plus new rolls and salads which have been introduced to cater for the increasing demand for healthier options. Ginsters’ salads range will included a Layered Westcountry Cheddar Salad, Coronation Chicken Rice Salad, Moroccan Chicken Cous Cous and Tuna Nicoise Salad.

Kepak also recently unveiled its ‘Hot, Quick and Tasty’ chilled snacking category approach, which aims to help retailers take better advantage of snacking missions by offering hot treats that can be prepared in store. Channel director Angela Daulby says that retailers can capitalise by stocking products that suit different snacking occasions. “Consumers shop at different times of the day for different purposes,” she says. “HIM CTP research showed that 79% of purchases in convenience outlets are made by shoppers on an ‘eat now’ mission, which, combined with our microwave stands, presents a huge opportunity for retailers.

“As well as ensuring that a range of hot, quick and tasty products are available and visible all day long, it’s important to offer customers a way of heating their snacks in store so they can eat them straightaway,” she adds.

The microwaveable option is one that is proving increasingly popular. Kerryfresh’s new range includes Taste Inc which is a 15-strong range of microwaveable snacks with an rrp of £1.99. Taste Inc commerical and marketing head Chris Wenham says that retailers need to be offering this option to consumers. “People lead busy, hectic lives and retailers need to make sure they are tapping into this, offering consumers a quick, easy and inexpensive snacking solution,” he says. “Micro-snacks are now seen as something that can be consumed across the day, offering a quick eating solution.”

Top of the pops

Once principally thought of as a treat at the cinema, popcorn is now one of the fastest growing impulse categories in terms of both sales and NPD. The sector has seen a value sales increase of 8% over the last year, with an accelerated growth of more than 12% in the opening months of 2013 (Nielsen 52wks to 2nd March 2013).

Toffee and sweet popcorn flavours continue to account for the majority share of sales in sub-category. However savoury isn’t too far behind and makes up 30% of the market and is adding more than £2.3m in value. Therefore it’s no suprise Butterkist has unveiled a new savoury popcorn range. Made using wholegrain corn, the range includes three flavours: sour cream & chive, sea salt & balsamic vinegar and barbecue variants.

There is a 25g (rrp 59p) pack for on-the-go occasions and lunchboxes, while the larger 80g (rrp £1.49) packs are designed for sharing during in-home entertaining or other social occasions.

It’s not just the big name brands that are expermenting with new flavours. Gourmet popcorn brand Propercorn founder Cassandra Stavrou explains the popularity of the product and why it’s changing. “Popcorn is increasingly perceived as a healthy snack and for that reason is proving to be one of the key growth drivers in the sector,” she says.

Other brands looking to provide something different in the popcorn market include Joe & Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn Kitchen, who have launched caramel, whisky & macchiato and honey & hazelnut flavours in uniquely packaged 35g snack packs and 80g sharing pouches, and Peter Popples Popcorn which comes in four family friendly flavours - golden syrup, cheddar cheese, salt & vinegar and tangy tomato.

As well as catering to your customers’ needs, all-day snacking solutions can offer tasty margins for your business, explains Country Choice marketing controller Stephen Clifford. “With little preparation time, and none of the cost associated with heating up an oven, thaw and serve products offer excellent margins, typically at 30-45%,” he says.

Clifford adds that the trend towards on-the-go snacking is only going to continue. “From a consumer perspective we expect to see an increase in demand for hand-held, easy-to-eat, ‘on the go’ products that can be consumed at any time of the day,” he says. “There is a definite shift towards multi-packs/buys which is why we have recently launched a new selection of mini sweet pastries - Mini Butter Croissant, Mini Pain au Chocolat, Mini Pain aux Raisin and Mini Fruit Lattice - which we are recommending retailers sell loose at ‘three for £1’.”

Cuisine de France brand communications manager Laura Smith says that snacks on the go should also include hot treats. “With hot food proving popular amongst consumers, both as a breakfast and afternoon snack, stores should also stock a tempting selection of pasties, slices and rolls,” she says. “Cuisine de France introduced a Smokey Bacon Sausage Roll to the portfolio last year, which combines tender pork and smoked bacon in light puff pastry, making it the ideal on-the-move snack.”

She says that customers are becoming bolder when it comes to taste and retailers have an opportunity to spice things up. “The consumer love affair with world flavours hit a peak in 2012, and is predicted to continue in 2013,” says Smith. “To meet this trend Cuisine de France launched Levi Roots pasties, available in chicken Reggae Reggae or beef variants. These tasty treats pack pineapple, red peppers, tomatoes and Jamaican jerk seasoning within light puff pastry.”

As well as pasties, the brand has also extended its premium doughnut range to include Lemon Crème and Strawberry Crème variants. And for your customers who want a substantial start to the day, it has unveiled pre-filled breakfast baps available in bacon and sausage variants.

For those stores that don’t have the space for bake off but still want to stock Cuisine de France products, the brand is launching a display unit that can be attached directly to shelving. The unit allows retailers to dual merchandise products such as the Wrapped to Go range in the chiller with drinks and sandwiches, or place it on any shelf in the store, freeing up precious countertop space.

This unit will be available free of charge with the purchase of four cases of Wrapped to Go product and is available now. Smith says this unit enables even the smallest retailer the opportunity to capitalise on snacking, which she feels is vital in today’s market.

“In this competitive market place it’s important that retailers are offering the best, most relevant products to stay ahead of the curve and the sales opportunities snacking occasions present simply cannot be ignored,” she adds.

According to Kantar WorldPanel research, as many as 46% of shoppers occasionally skip breakfast. According to Mondelez International, this creates opportunities for retailers to sell products specially designed for the occasion, such as Belvita Breakfast.

Earlier this year, the company widened the range with a 150g pack format designed specifically for the convenience channel. Priced at £1.49, the units contain three 50g packs and are designed to appeal to shoppers topping up at their local store.

Ones to watch

Tasty sounds

Kellogg’s is helping retailers shake up their sales with its latest Pringles speaker offer. Running throughout the summer, consumers can claim a LED colour flashing speaker when they purchase two cans of Pringles. The promotion will be supported by TV advertising, sampling at the V Festival and digital activity.

tel: 0800 731 4994

Price is right

Pepsico has extended its Smiths range of value snacks. Twisted Flamin’ Hot and Wafflers Bacon Flavour are now available in single-serve packs with a 39p pricemark. The range has been extended after the success of Snaps and Chipsticks, which grew by 64.5% and 49.7%.

rrp: 39p

tel: 0118 930 6666

Healthy choice

Dole Food Company has added a range of healthy snacking options combining fruit, nuts and seeds. The range consists of Mini Crunch almond and fruit bites (rrp £2.99) Trio Bars, combining nuts, seeds and fruit (rrp £2.19), toasted rice bites Stix (rrp £2.39) and Right Crunch clusters of fruits and nuts (rrp £1.59).

tel: 01273 222 100

Quick flavours

Taste Inc is a new microwaveable snacking range that includes 12 SKUs with an rrp of £1.99. Distributed by Kerryfresh, the range includes chicken sandwich, quarter pounder, meatball sub and chicken & chorizo baguette. All products in the Taste Inc range contain less than 450 calories.

tel: 0800 121 4688

Mixed bag

UB has launched KP Snackers. These snack and nut assortments contain well known favourites such as KP Jumbo Peanuts and Hula Hoops along with other popular snacks such as tortillas, corn strips and multigrain crisps in wave and spiral shapes. Snackers are available in spicy chilli, salted and salt & vinegar styles.

tel: 0800 138 0813