A glance at the latest research into bagged snacks may surprise many forecourt retailers. Mintel’s latest report, Crisps and Snacks, June 2005, shows falling sales of crisps and savoury snacks across all retail outlets. Just three years ago, it says, total sales were £2.4bn but now that has dropped by 6% to just over £2.2bn.
Forecourts, however, are bucking the trend with sales of bagged snacks up 5.2% (IRI managed petrol forecourts 52 w/e May 14 2005). And according to AC Nielsen, bagged snacks sales in forecourts are now worth more than £54m a year.
Crisps make up the lion’s share of the bagged snacks market with value sales of just over £24m in forecourts (IRI managed petrol forecourts 52 w/e 14 May 2005). Nathan Robinson, customer business manager for forecourts at PepsiCo, says forecourts are ideally placed to benefit from current activity in the sector.
“The crisps segment is the largest one and the innovation it is currently seeing is relevant to the forecourt sector,” he says. “For example, Walker’s Nobby’s crisps are a fantastic fit for the forecourt as they are aimed at 17-34-year-old males and are bigger, chunkier crisps in flavours such as Friday night balti chicken, which appeal to blokes.”
Meanwhile, Mintel has identified the premium sector as a key area of growth within the crisps sector. “Premiumisation through the development of the hand-fried and added-value propositions within the crisps market has seen good growth in an otherwise disappointing market,” explains David Bird, senior market analyst at Mintel.
And a spokesperson for Golden Wonder says: “The two strong performing areas of the market are the premium and ‘better for you’ sectors.”
Golden Wonder says it is fuelling growth of the premium sector with its new Golden Skins brand – a premium range of thick-cut crisps with the peel left on. In fact, Golden Skins have proved so popular that new flavours are now being added to the range.
And in line with the ‘better for you’ trend, the company is backing its lower-fat Golden Lights brand with a poster and press campaign as well as an on-pack promotion to flag up the introduction of the brand’s 150g sharing bag.
Other big players are paying heed to these key trends too. Walkers Snacks, for instance, recently launched Potato Heads crisps with a nod towards the health-conscious consumer – they contain no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives, and have 70% less saturated fats (than Walkers standard crisps).
And manufacturers are also combining both premium and healthy credentials in a single product. Kettle Foods, for example, has introduced Kettle Chips Undressed – unsalted Kettle Chips fried in sunflower oil. Kettle Foods hopes the new variant will appeal to ‘the growing group of health-conscious people who are looking to cut their salt intake’ as well as those who want a natural taste with no additives. After all, Kettle Foods’ best-selling product remains Kettle chips lightly salted, which has 40% less salt than typical mainstream crisps.
PepsiCo’s Robinson says that forecourts should take note of these trends, but says that while premium crisps are an opportunity for forecourts, demand might be smaller than in the wider retail market. “I urge forecourt retailers to focus on core SKUs,” he says. “The premium lines may offer more margins but mainstream crisps will drive more overall cash for their business.”
Indeed, forecourt retailers should remember that the top two best-selling bagged snacks in forecourts are representative of the ‘old favourites’ – Walker’s cheese & onion and Walker’s ready salted, although Walker’s Sensations in Thai sweet chilli at number 10 shows demand is there for a premium offering.
Bagged snacks – which include reconstituted potato products such as Quavers and NikNaks as well as the likes of Mini Cheddars – are showing strong growth in forecourts, with sales up 11.6% (IRI managed petrol forecourts 52 w/e May 14 2005).
Walkers Quavers and Walkers Squares are the only snacks to appear in the top 10 best-selling bagged snacks on the forecourt (see box below), making them a must-stock for retailers.
A glance at the top 10 best-sellers list also underlines the importance of stocking well-known brands. After all, forecourt consumers use the time it takes to get from the door to the till to assess the crisps and snacks fixture, and are looking for instant familiarity and reassurance.
Golden Wonder’s category marketing controller Jon Anstey says consumers must be offered a choice of top brands: “To get the very best return from the bagged snacks fixture, retailers must offer consumers the choice they want. Restricting options for consumers limits profit potential and all our research shows that the very best way to boost sales is to provide people with a range of leading brands that are in the public eye.”
The trend towards eating healthier food has perhaps been more notable in the snacks fixture than in crisps with manufacturers tailoring healthy snacks to consumers on the move. Kallo, for example, has introduced new snack pack rice cakes. Each pack contains four individually wrapped packs of two cakes (rrp £1.19) in a choice of three flavours – honey, savoury & cheese and oat & rice.
And Ryvita says last year’s launch of bite-size crispbread Ryvita Minis was ‘specifically designed to respond to the increasing consumer demand for healthier options on the go’. The company says the product – in flavours including mature cheddar & onion and tomato salsa – has been a hit with consumers with sales growing at a rate of 11.5%.
But Nicky Seal, PepsiCo marketing manager, reckons forecourts have been slow off the mark when it comes to cashing in on healthy snacks: “Forecourts haven’t latched on to the healthy opportunity as quickly as they could have done, but it is important they recognise the opportunity is there,” she says.
PepsiCo’s Robinson confirms that 46% of consumers consider buying healthier snacks in the forecourt environment. But he adds: “To avoid confusion I would advise retailers to create a separate ‘healthier’ section away from the main crisps and snacks fixture.”
Never underestimate the importance of size when it comes to bagged snacks on the forecourt. ‘Big eat’ (around 55g) are now often pushed as the standard range in forecourts and offer retailers higher margins per unit than standard bags. What’s more, the top two best-selling bagged snacks on the forecourt are now ‘big eat’ bags (see box left).
PepsiCo’s Robinson says: “A forecourt trader’s main crisps & snacks fixture should consist of ‘big eat’ bags,” while a spokesperson for United Biscuits says: “Fifty-four per cent of forecourt customers are male, with an average age of 38 years, so retailers should focus on big eat snacks.”
Big bags or sharing bags are also important, although value sales in forecourts are down by around 5% on last year (IR 52 w/e 14 May). Robinson advises forecourts to develop a sharing fixture away from the main area. “Retailers can create an ‘occasion’ by siting big bags near take-home soft carbonates and alcohol because 30% of beers, wines and spirits generally are purchases with crisps and snacks,” he says.
Manufacturers are determined not to miss out on the sharing opportunity too. Indeed, Real McCoy’s, already a favourite in forecourts (see box on page 40) is looking to grow the brand by £27m this year by launching McCoy’s Specials – a ‘premium’ offering in a sharing bag.
A United Biscuits spokesperson says: “The launch of a McCoy’s sharing proposition is in direct response to the growing trend towards premium snacking among adults and meets a gap in the market for a premium snack with a male bias. Adult premium sharing has shown double-digit growth and currently accounts for 21% of bagged snacks category sales. The new launch targets 20-34 year old blokes and their partners.”
Of course, handypack sales – or smaller bags – are still important to forecourts. United Biscuit’s Hula Hoops brand claims to be leading overall growth in handypacks with sales up 14.8%. And with £4m in marketing support behind the brand this year, United Biscuits plans to increase growth further by widening the net to all family members and by increasing purchase frequency.
According to KP, the fastest growing area within nuts is the healthy category. A spokesperson for KP says: “Consumer awareness of the health benefits of nuts has played a key role in the continued growth of the category. There has been a 21% value change within the healthier nuts segment, making it the fastest growing of all the nuts segments.”
No surprise then that the company’s putting big money behind healthy products. Some £1.5m is supporting the KP Nuts brand this year and this includes the summer launch of KP Origins, a range of healthy fruit and nut yogurt mixes in two variants: exotic fruit, nut & yogurt mix and summer fruit & nut mix. Both come in a 75g handypack format with a rrp of £1.19.
In addition, new packaging has been introduced across the core KP Nuts range to highlight the healthy credentials of nuts such as ‘low carb’, ‘naturally low in saturated fat’ and ‘a good source of fibre and protein’.
Staying with the health theme and Sun Valley has produced a range of healthy snacks based on the hit TV show You Are What You Eat. The four varieties, which include Nothing but Nuts and Fruitabulous Fruit & Nut Mix, come in 100g bags (rrp 99p).
But are ‘healthier’ nuts really what forecourt consumers want? Well, Mark Cuddigan, retail sales manager at Dormens Foods, says sales of the company’s nuts are showing a 15% year-on-year increase in forecourts, with best sellers including jumbo cashews and jumbo pistachios.
Finally, Walker’s says its new Nobby’s nuts range is a perfect fit for forecourts. Like the Nobby’s crisp brand, the range is aimed at young blokes. So far it’s so good – it took 7% of the market in its first four weeks.