How much do you think the sweet and savoury snacks market is worth in the UK? One billion pounds perhaps? Or even two? If those were your answers, then you’re way off because according to AC Nielsen, the biscuits, bagged snacks, snack cakes and snack confectionery market was worth a whopping £6.7bn in 2006 and is growing at a rate of 1.4%. Biggest growth comes from cakes up 4.9% and bagged snacks such as crisps, up 3.5%.

So we’ve established that it’s a massive market and one that’s in growth, however research reveals that some forecourts are missing out on sales because shoppers can’t find what they want.

UBUK conducted some research with the Convenience Tracking Programme in BP Connect stores to understand what shoppers were buying in store and why, and then translated its results into recommendations on store layout and range.

Those recommendations include:

? snacks are more of an impulse buy than confectionery so retailers should make sure that crisps and snacks are situated en route to the till;

? bagged snacks are the most common foods consumed with beer so forecourt stores with off licences should dual site share-size packs with beers, wines and spirits;

? 75% of shoppers who can’t find what they want do not make an alternative purchase, which is why it’s imperative for retailers to have clearly visible snacking products like McCoy’s and Hula Hoops on display.

Walkers is, of course, the biggest name in savoury snacks but you might not think so if you went into some forecourt shops. Susan Dallas, Pepsico’s forecourt customer business manager, explains: "AC Nielsen data suggests that Walkers products are under-spaced in forecourts because despite having 52% of category sales overall (latest 12 weeks), we account for only 41% of listings in an average forecourt store. We believe this presents a strong opportunity for forecourt retailers. As the available range of forecourt-sized products has grown across the category, it may be the case that retailers have started to stock products which are not among the best sellers. However extensive research we have run in impulse stores has shown that focusing space on the best sellers and core range, such as Walkers cheese & onion, can drive growth by up to 20%."

The aforementioned Walkers cheese & onion is the company’s best-selling line across the UK. And in forecourts, it is the ’Big Eat’ bag that sells particularly well.

Promotions on snacks work well too. Walkers recently ran a meal deal in BP outlets to promote its Baked line. Says Dallas: "BP worked with us to ensure the promotion was executed effectively and we had the right affinity of premium products. The mechanic of the deal - buy a Wild Bean baguette and a Tropicana 330ml and receive a pack of Walkers Baked free - was an effective way of making forecourt shoppers aware of the new product."

She says that where meal deals are part of a retailer’s strategy, Walkers fully supports them. "On average we run them two or three times a year. We also support retailers with deals such as a ’2 for 1’ or link-save with another category, for example crisps and confectionery."

Recently Walkers ran a Sensations ’Divine with Wine’ promotion in partnership with E&J Gallo. This was designed to promote the strong association between evening snacking and enjoying a glass of wine.

"Currently 20% of all Sensations consumption in the evening occurs with wine, this makes it the highest indexing crisps brand with wine. Furthermore, research shows this figure is growing at 23% year-on-year," explains Dallas.

She says the promotion was given a particular emphasis in BP forecourts, where customers buying a bottle of E&J Gallo wine were given a free pack of Sensations.

Some forecourt retailers might think that sharing products are not relevant to them and prefer to stick to single, eat-now packs, but Dallas disagrees: "In most forecourts there is a ’take home/sharing’ offering across many categories and this is especially relevant in the snacking category."

Meanwhile nuts have traditionally sold well in forecourts and Pepsico’s fun Nobby’s Nuts brand continues to make distribution gains through the channel. Dallas says it’s a popular brand that’s currently experiencing a 27% growth in sales versus last year.

The range was recently boosted by the launch of flavoured almonds and cashews in a new, more convenient resealable pack format. Flavours include Japanese wasabi & soy, Indian spice and sweet chilli.

== The big issue ==

Traditional crisps and snacks have never had a particularly healthy image. However with consumers becoming more and more health conscious, manufacturers have been busy changing the fats they are cooked in and reducing the salt levels. And so Hula Hoops and Hula Hoops Ridges have had a 55% reduction in saturated fat while McCoy’s Classic have had a 30% reduction. In addition, Hula Hoops has a new healthier version - Multigrain made from rice flour, maize flour and wheat bran. Walkers crisps are now cooked in sunseed oil, and there’s a new Pringles product made from ground rice,

Says Dallas: "Consumers have become increasingly aware of the need for a healthy diet and lifestyle and it is up to suppliers and retailers to offer a choice of products that meet consumer demand. This applies to all channels, including forecourts."

Indeed the UB/CTP research found that 46% of shoppers surveyed said they would consider buying healthy snacks in forecourts.

Dallas also points to the increasing number of female consumers in forecourts, which is contributing to the growing demand for healthier snacking options: "We’ve found that around 40% of all money spent in forecourts is actually spent by females, so it’s not true to say that forecourts are still a male-dominated environment. And with the market continuing to provide better and better food offerings with BP M&S and Esso On The Run, for example, female spend is likely to increase further, which means the female consumer is becoming even more important to forecourts."

Jonathan Barr, marketing manager at Sun Valley, agrees: "Forecourts are having to change their offering to cater for their new audience and healthy snacks are moving to the forefront of the product offering." He says that despite the demand, it can be difficult to find a healthy grab and go product for women and children, but he reckons he has the answer in his company’s new Just range. "Just follows on from the success of our You Are What You Eat range of dried fruit, nuts and seeds. Consumers want variety and taste in their healthy purchases and as a result these ranges are growing stronger in forecourts with listings including Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s forecourts as well as Esso, BP and Shell.

"Dedicated ’health’ areas attract customers and when combined with eye-catching point of sale, the impact on sales can be huge." He says a recent four-week campaign with Esso generated a 200% increase in sales.

The new Just range of fruit and nut snacks was launched to help encourage healthy snacking, especially among school age youngsters and teenagers. Funky names and vibrant packaging aim to give the range real kid appeal. There are four varieties: Berriez, Raisinz, Fruit ’n’ Seedz and Nutz. Rrp is 30-45p a pack, depending on the variety.

Finally, established better-for-you brand Ryvita, has introduced a handy snack pack format for out-of-home consumption. Available in multi-grain and sesame variants, each box contains five individually-wrapped packs of four crispbreads. Rrp is £1.29 for the 200g pack.

Ryvita marketing director Rob Murray comments: "Ryvita is firmly committed to growing the healthier snacking sector and is recognised as the signpost brand for healthier snacking."


=== itsy bitsy teeny weeny Bikini combo ===

An organic sandwich and salad combo might not sound like the obvious product choice for a forecourt but according to Fresh! Naturally Organic, it is spot on.

Chantelle Ludski, the company’s founder and managing director, says: "Organic is a huge opportunity for forecourts looking to increase their margin. As well as offering taste and nutritional benefits, organic also offers a significant price premium. Consumers have grown used to the organic offering in the multiples and are now looking for the same choice in the convenience and out-of-home sectors."

The ’In Your Bikini, Baby’ box is targeted at weight-conscious women, who want the calorie-saving benefits of a salad, with the sustenance of a sandwich. The combo consists of a salad containing tuna & coriander pesto, avocado, mango & chilli salsa and mixed baby leaf salad leaves all on three grain bread; and an accompanying side-salad. It all contains less than 200 calories and just 4% fat.

Ludski continues: "While there has been a huge influx of ’better for you’ lines entering the chiller section, there is little choice for people who want to watch their weight and eat organically."

As well as the combo, Fresh! is launching an ’In Your Bikini’ sandwich’ that will feature the same mix of ingredients.

All products are free from artificial chemicals and genetically modified organisms. All packaging is bio-degradable and compostable plus Fresh! is committed to avoiding air-freighted goods and buying local, UK produce. Seasonal ingredients are used wherever possible.


=== rouse-ing remarks from United biscuits ===

Michael Rouse, impulse trading director at UBUK, says forecourts have some of the best merchandising standards in the impulse sector. "They are more innovative in terms of how to sell to the consumer," he says. "They have to maximise awareness of their product range and make very effective use of space." Product adjacencies and meal deals have proved very successful in forecourts. Rouse says snacking is a very challenging area - and a big opportunity in forecourts - hence UB has invested heavily to accommodate three factors influencing consumer purchase - ’healthier’, ’pleasure’ and ’making life easier’. "Range discipline is key - so while it is important to flag up new products, don’t forget that 80-90% of sales come from the core range - such as McCoys. That’s where the cash comes from."