The crisps and snacks market in the UK is in slight growth (up 0.8%) making it worth some £3.3bn (Kantar Worldpanel data 52 weeks ending March 27, 2016). And although four out of every five pounds spent on crisps and snacks goes through the major grocery multiples, this still leaves 20% (over £600m-worth) through convenience stores.

While sales of bog-standard crisps are down (-8.2%) in the convenience sector, there’s growth in many sub categories with popcorn up nearly 24%, baked snacks up nearly 20% and tortilla snacks up 10%. But you’ve got to hand it to the snacks manufacturers for coming up with innovation to help boost crisp sales. Take Walkers, which launched the Tear ’n’ Share bag that turns into a bowl earlier this year. Analysts at Kantar say that if it wasn’t for this launch, crisps sales would have been down by more than 8.2%.

At the time of the launch, PepsiCo marketing director, Thomas Barkholt, said: "We know that consumers love the taste of the Walkers core range and now we have made it available to share in a simple format.

"The bag and bowl concept, a first for the sharing segment, accompanied by a thicker cut crisp is set to drive incremental sales for retailers while establishing Walkers Tear ’n’ Share as a credible brand for all sharing occasions."

The 150g sharing bags, rrp £1.99, are available in Lightly Salted, Salt & Malt Vinegar, Cheddar Cheese & Onion, Sticky BBQ Ribs and Sweet Chilli varieties.

Meanwhile, a bold move over at KP Snacks has seen renowned ridged crisp McCoy’s smoothed out into a Thick Cut flat crisp. The company says the launch aims to "recover the declining flat crisp consumption among young male consumers".

Matt Collins, trading controller convenience at KP Snacks, explains: "We know that the current flat crisp offering isn’t meeting consumer demand. Shoppers want a snack that will satisfy their appetite in between meals and are turning to other snack alternatives that are more filling. With this in mind, we’ve developed Thick Cut, a hunger-busting range of flat crisps that really delivers on flavour." McCoy’s Thick Cut is available in 50p price-marked and non-price-marked 35g handy packs, in BBQ Chicken and Cheddar & Red Onion flavours. And you can expect your customers to be on the look out for these new flat crisps as McCoy’s is being supported by a £4.5m marketing campaign throughout this year. The brand’s new ’When Flavour Calls’ advert communicates McCoy’s superior flavour by showing viewers what would happen if ’Flavour’ were to call.

Over at Kellogg’s, the focus is on smaller pack sizes, with Pringles looking to grow its 40g single-serve can range with the launch of a new Hot & Spicy flavour which joins the Original, Sour Cream & Onion, Salt & Vinegar and BBQ varieties. New Hot & Spicy is available now, with 59p price-marked packs launching next month.

Kellogg’s sees a big opportunity in the 40g can. Last year its sales increased by £3.4m to £12m (IRI) and, of the 20 biggest singles crisps brands in convenience, it’s the one that’s growing the fastest. It’s also proven to drive incremental sales, bringing more incremental shoppers to the category than Quavers, McCoy’s and Wotsits (Kantar Worldpanel data). But there’s still room for growth as while the brand has 96% awareness, the small can has relatively low penetration.

Kellogg’s reports that that’s changing this year, with 40g cans carrying on-pack promotions for the first time, plus there’s pos to help retailers make the most of limited space.

The format is great for retailers as the cans can be stacked and also for forecourt customers, as they fit perfectly into a lot of cup-holders.

Nick Dawson, Kellogg’s sales director for the specialty channel, says: "Since taking over the Pringles business in 2012, Kellogg’s has turned the 190g Pringles can into a snacking powerhouse, with yearly sales of almost £200m making it the biggest brand in the large sharing category.

"But now our attention is turning to the 40g can, which unlocks different in-store opportunities and targets a different shopper. Whereas large cans will always be a convenience store staple for big nights in, summer barbecues or parties, the smaller can is great for impulsive snacking on-the-go."

Further innovation from KP Snacks comes in the form of new Hula Hoops Golden Hoops a baked version of the popular potato snack. The 50g Cheese-flavoured grab bag (rrp 69p) contains 30% less fat than standard crisps, which is clearly highlighted on the front of packs.

The launch is supported by a multi-million pound marketing campaign that includes social and digital activation, in-store pos, as well as TV advertising on air this summer to drive awareness and trial among families across the UK.

Collins comments: "The concept has tested incredibly well with consumers, and our research has revealed that sales are expected to deliver over £10m in retail sales in the first year. This is a huge opportunity for independent retailers to grow their crisps and snacks sales, and we’re encouraging them to take full advantage by stocking up ahead of demand."

Baked not fried is a message that’s really hit home with many consumers as illustrated by the success of Ritz Crisp & Thin and Jacob’s Cracker Snacks.

A 30g grab bag version of the share size Sweet Red Chilli flavour Ritz product was recently added to the range while there are two new varieties joining the 100g sharing bag line up: Lightly Sea Salted and Oven Roasted Chicken.

Meanwhile, Hena Chandarana, trade communications controller at United Biscuits (UB), puts Jacob’s Cracker Crisps’ 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. The product is on track to deliver £15m in retail sales value in year one."

A new Smoky Barbecue flavour has just been added to the range.

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

Cracking sales

Finally, with many consumers focused on their protein intake, nuts is a category that definitely needs consideration. Ask most consumers to name a nut brand and they’ll say KP. The brand has established a loyal consumer base, with one in four nut consumers buying KP. Worth £59m in retail sales value and growing 7.7% year-on-year (Nielsen), the brand has contributed to over half of the growth of the nuts segment.

Now, the entire range has been given a new design and is available in upgraded foil packaging, with the larger 270g and 450g packs having a re-close label on them. The brand has also launched its popular Chilli flavour in a new 50g pack and introduced a £1 price-marked pack range, available across its Original Salted, Dry Roasted, Salt & Vinegar and Chilli variants.

"As part of an on-going commitment to product improvements for our market- leading brands, our higher grade of film wrap on all our packs ensures every nut that reaches our consumers is the best possible quality, delivering the perfect taste," says Collins. "Our new 50g pack and £1 PMP range are perfect for convenience retailers to target the top-up shop mission and offer loyal consumers great value for their money."

A Proper success story

If you’re not stocking Propercorn you probably should be. That’s because, according to IRI data, it is now the UK’s fastest growing premium popcorn brand. The brand had a 14% share of total popcorn sales last year; selling two million-plus packs a month and is a best seller in both Tesco’s and Boots. Plus the product range is totally gluten free, which taps into the fast-growing free-from market.
Propercorn’s core range for convenience is Sweet & Salty (30g), Lightly Sea Salted (20g) and Sweet Coconut & Vanilla (25g), which will soon be available in price-marked packs.
However, the big news from the brand is a new sharing format. Propercorn has worked with the Wipak group to create the new bespoke packaging. This features a ’pinch and tear’ panel on the front of the pack that can be easily removed to create a bowl for sharing.
In addition, the sharing bags can still be opened in the traditional way from the top of the pack. Sweet & Salty and Lightly Sea Salted flavours will be available in the new packs.
Propercorn 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 crisps, snacks and nuts sharing category."

Retailer view

Ridwan Patel, Brookfield Retail
"Walkers is extremely important to our crisps range, if you think of crisps you think of Walkers straight away. We support all Walkers promotional activity as it helps to drive customer footfall. Walkers Tear & Share bags are currently going well at £1 on promotion. We run meal deals in all of our sites as they help us compete with the likes of Greggs, and they bring in more customers. Our deal includes a sandwich, Walkers crisps, water or 375ml Coke. McCoys’ sales are growing rapidly they have recently been added to the meal deal, and it will be interesting to see how they do."

What’s new in snacks?

Tyrrells has launched My Sweet Potato crisps in three flavours: Lightly Sea Salted; Coconut & Lime; and Sweet Chilli. The crisps are available in 35g on-the-go packs (rrp 85p) and 125g sharing bags (rrp £2.49).
Kettle Chips’ latest limited edition is Chorizo, Feta & Olive, which will be available throughout the key summer sales period.
Walkers Max has launched a Jamaican-inspired flavour that’s exclusive to the impulse channel. The new Jerk Chicken flavour (rrp 75p, 50g) is available in a four-case stacker, which also includes the Flamin’ Hot, Paprika and Flame Grilled Steak SKUs.
Walkers has also launched a three-case stacker to support Monster Munch grab bags. The stackers include Monster Munch Flamin’ Hot, Pickled Onion and Roast Beef SKUs .
Burts Chips latest tie up with the Wychwood Brewery sees the launch, this month, of a new Hamageddon flavour, which combines roasted ham, with Hobgoblin Gold premium beer & pickle. This joins the Hobgoblin Spit Roast Steak variety.