For consumers, there’s no escaping snacks because in this multi-million pound market there’s something for everyone. There are snacks for those who are simply hungry, snacks for those wanting a treat, and nowadays there are even snacks for those people who are watching their weight.

James Dixon, senior category manager at Burton’s, says: "We are witnessing a growing consumer trend towards healthier, indulgent, and portion-controlled snacking products. To maximise sales, forecourts need to stock foods that address these needs, while also offering a varied mix of products. One-third of snacks are purchased on the go - equalling six billion occasions and marking a huge opportunity for forecourts."

According to AC Nielsen data (total coverage 52 weeks ending July 12, 2008) the crisps, snacks and nuts category was worth £1.99bn, growing at 5.9%. Walkers is the number one manufacturer in the category with total sales across all its crisps, snacks and nuts brands of just under £917m. Sales of Walkers Crisps alone are worth more than £447m, and are growing at 8.7% year-on-year. The brand has kept up with the growing health trend by switching to sunseed oil for cooking and reducing saturated fat content by up to 80% and salt levels by up to 25%.

Demand for healthier snacks looks set to continue, indeed TNS reports that 55 million crisps, nuts or snack eating occasions were motivated by health last year. Walkers’ healthier snack brands are Baked and SunBites, which the company says account for 63% of the £138m better-for-you crisps, nuts and snacks sector. Walkers 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 investment in consumer support. For forecourts, it is now available in a ’big eat’ 37.5g bag.

Meanwhile, SunBites is a wholegrain snack made with whole wheat, whole oats and whole corn. Launched last September, the brand is already worth £15.8m. Sharing is big business across the entire snacks category so both Baked and SunBites are now available in 95g sharing bags.

Crispbread brand Ryvita is moving into the crisps aisle with Limbos, a baked crispy snack containing 90% less fat than regular crisps.

Ryvita’s marketing director, Nigel Nelms, says: "Health-conscious consumers are demanding more and more from the crisp category, looking for products that provide healthy snacking credentials without compromising on taste. The trend of baking crisps to reduce fat content has been received well by consumers, but given Ryvita’s truly healthy snacking credentials we wanted to develop an alternative that would take baked snacks to a new gold standard level."

Each bag of Limbos contains around 70 calories. Recommended retail price is 49p. They come in three popular flavours: cheese & onion, salt & vinegar and smoky bacon.

Pom-Bear, Intersnack’s teddy-shaped potato snack, continues to sell well. According to AC Nielsen snacks market data (MAT to end June 2008) the brand has grown by 35% in the impulse channel.

Particularly popular with kids, Pom-Bear is described as a ’lighter-eat’ snack. It fits the healthy trend as it contains no artificial colours, flavours, or artificial preservatives.

More for the grown-ups are Bertolli Baked Bites, launched as part of Burton’s Foods’ long-term strategy to build Bertolli into a leading savoury snacking brand.

The bites are described as a light and crispy snack baked with Bertolli olive oil and available in three flavours: sea salt & black pepper, sweet chilli & red pepper, and Italian cheese & red onion. They come in 30g bags, rrp 49p.

Burtons’ marketing director, Jaspal Chada, reckons Bites fill a gap by providing "great tasting, naturally healthy alternatives to traditional snacks in convenient portion-sized packs that are suitable for a wide range of snacking occasions".

According to IRI data, the value of the crisps and snacks market within total forecourts is £83m with Pringles sales currently representing £5m of that figure. Brand owner Procter & Gamble puts Pringles’ success down to recent innovations which it says are growing penetration year-on-year. The latest innovation is Pringles Select, which P&G says taps into the growing premium sharing snacks category.

Instead of Pringles’ traditional tube packaging, Select comes in flat-bottomed 150g purple bags. They come in six flavours. However, P&G says the core range for forecourts is four: Italian cheese & garlic, Thai sweet chilli, sea salt & balsamic vinegar and spicy Szechuan barbecue. The other two flavours are sundried tomato with basil and paprika.

McCoy’s is United Biscuits’ leading potato crisps brand, worth £87m. It does well in forecourts thanks to its ’crisps for men’ positioning. The range was recently boosted by the launch of limited-edition red hot chilli and chicken Madras Extreme handypacks.

Upmarket crisps brand Kettle Chips was last year helped by a regional TV campaign in London and the south east. This was so successful in bringing new consumers to the brand and growing sales that it’s being rolled out to a national audience.

The brand is also helped by new launches. Sour cream & chive and mature Cheddar & red onion varieties have just been added as permanent additions to the line up. Both flavours come in 40g and 150g bags.

Kettle Chips marketing director, Andrew Slamin, says: "The TV campaign and new products will give a boost to our strong core range, which has seen an increase of over one million new households purchasing Kettle Chips over the past year (Nielsen data). We are confident that the new products will deliver incremental sales. Retailers can take part in this success - stocking Kettle Chips will deliver additional sales as 44% of our growth is incremental to the total category."

== The sweeter side ==

Of course not every snacker wants a savoury product and there’s plenty to choose from on the sweet side. Cereal snacks, for example, are currently worth £293m with Kellogg’s accounting for a huge chunk of sales. Its Nutri-Grain is the best-selling cereal bar brand in the market. The brand was extended earlier this year with the launch of Nutri-Grain Soft Oaties Chocolate Chip to offer consumers a more indulgent snack but one with all the healthy Nutri-Grain credentials.

Burton’s launched Jammie Dodger Snack Bars and Maryland Munch Bars. in multipacks earlier this year but they are now available as single bars within counter display units of 24.

The Jammie Dodgers Snack Bars are a chewy sandwich bar with rice crispies, biscuit and fruit pieces combined with a Jammie Dodger flavour fruit filling. Rrp is 39p. The Maryland Munch Bars contain cereal, cookie pieces and chocolate chip, and again are chewy. Rrp is 49p.

Meanwhile the total biscuits category is showing signs of a revival with sales up by 6.7% year-on-year according to IRI data. This is quite a turnaround as only 12 months ago sales were static.

Andy Foweather, sales director of General Mills UK, reckons the healthier biscuits category has played a part in this growth. "Healthier biscuits is now worth £373m and is growing by 6.8% on an annual basis."

The Nature Valley range of wholegrain oats bars currently generates annual retail sales of £8.6m. Foweather describes the brand as the "rising star" of the £116m snack bar segment of the healthier biscuits category. He explains: "Over the past 52 weeks Nature Valley has contributed over 80% of snack bar category growth. The brand is also good for the long-term growth of the category as it brings in new consumers; 59% of brand purchases are incremental to the category."

General Mills believes it is essential to support and invest in the brand which is why it is spending £4m on a marketing campaign to ensure Nature Valley is front-of-mind with shoppers. The support includes national TV advertising.

New from Glisten come Sun-Maid Fruit Fingers, which take the Sun-Maid brand beyond dried fruit and into a pressed fruit bar.

They come in two different varieties: dipped in chocolate and dipped in yogurt. They contain no artificial colours or flavours and each bar contains one portion of fruit. The bars are supplied in a counter-top display unit containing 24 twin-packs, each with a rrp of 69p.

Finally, Kit Kat is a snack brand that spans both the biscuit and confectionery categories.

Graham Walker, Nestlé UK trade communications manager, reckons its continuing success can be attributed to three key factors - consistent consumer communication, exciting new product launches and outstanding quality. The bars now come in original, orange, mint, dark and cappuccino varieties.

Nestlé has capitalised on current health trends, by highlighting Kit Kat’s calorie count on pack. For example, the two-finger version contains just 107 calories.


=== Nutty Approach ===

KP Nuts clip strips are available to independent retailers to enable them to ’secondary-site’ KP’s biggest sellers - salted and dry roasted peanuts. UBUK recommends that retailers with off licences locate the clip strips within beer, wine and spirits displays to encourage cross-category purchases.

The company has recently refreshed its KP Nuts’ packaging and logo and rolled out a range of new products. These include MSG-free salt & vinegar and spicy chilli nuts. And following the success of Baked & Seasoned Nuts, UBUK has launched Baked & Seasoned Mixes in chilli & lemongrass with sweet fire red pepper pieces and sea salt & rosemary with toasted pumpkin seeds varieties.