The UK is Europe’s biggest crisp and snacks market, worth £2.2bn a year with us consuming 100 packets of crisps per person per year (Nielsen data). It’s little wonder then that the new flavours and new formats keep coming.

The big news recently has been the launch of cracker-type crisps with Mondelez International, United Biscuits (UB) and Pepsico all introducing them.

Mondelez’s offering is Ritz Crisp & Thin. Rick Lawrence, biscuits, crisps and snacks category lead, UK and Ireland, at the firm, comments: "The UK savoury snacks market is currently dominated by the traditional fried potato crisp, and we believe there is significant room for snacks to be bigger within the category, like in North America where salty snacks are worth $28bn (Nielsen).

The market has been ripe for innovation, given that there’s been little new product development (NPD) within crisps and savoury snacks above and beyond new flavours."

NPD from Mondelez takes the form of the ’baked and light’ Ritz Crisp & Thin potato snack in four flavours: cream cheese & onion, sea salt & vinegar, sweet red chilli and sea salt & black pepper. All flavours are available in 100g sharing bags, rrp £2.19, with the cream cheese & onion and sea salt & vinegar varieties also available in 30g singles, rrp 79p.

With the Ritz name on it, the new product is certainly going to get noticed as Ritz is the world’s number one savoury biscuit brand, currently worth £19m in the UK and growing by 33% value year-on-year (Nielsen).

The launch is backed by a ’Puttin’ on the Ritz’ campaign with a new version of the song sung by American jazz musician Gregory Porter. In addition there will be TV advertising, out-of-home and digital activity, as well as sampling.

UB’s version is actually called Cracker Crisps and comes under the Jacob’s brand. This time there are three variants: sea salt & balsamic vinegar; Thai sweet chilli; and sour cream & chive; initially available in a 150g sharing bag, rrp £2.09, with a 40g handypack due for launch later in the year.

As the flagship NPD for UB in 2015, Jacob’s Cracker Crisps will be supported by a £4.5m media spend including a TV campaign featuring the ’Jacob the Baker’ character. Plus there will be a mass sampling campaign to drive awareness and trial.

From Pepsico, the launch is a Walkers Sensations extension called Crispy Thins, which the company says provides the "perfect mix of the brand’s adventurous flavours in a new baked format, delivering a premium snacking experience".

The crackers are baked until golden brown to create a light and crispy texture and then seasoned while warm. There are three flavours: Thai sweet chilli; Mexican fiery sweet chipotle; and caramelised onion & balsamic vinegar; in sharing bags, rrp £1.99.

Again by using an established brand name they can expect to get noticed, particularly as Walkers Sensations are already consumed by a quarter of households in the UK (Kantar).

Marketing director, Thomas Barkholt, comments: "Sensations is a huge brand and one which is truly loved by our consumers for its ability to deliver category-famous flavours. We are incredibly excited to expand the Sensations range into another segment with Crispy Thins, which taps into a macro trend of shoppers’ broadening their repertoire into savoury snacks, but still with all the flavour they would expect and love from Sensations.

"We have developed the range in response to research, which identified that younger couples have distinctive needs and are looking for sophisticated products and adventurous flavours. The new launch will help drive incremental sales for retailers while also boosting category growth."

And the original Sensations crisps product continues to grow with two new flavours: Moroccan spices with sweet tomato and gently infused lime with Thai spices. Barkholt says these flavours build on what the brand is famous for providing snacks for consumers with adventurous tastes.

Flavour is something the Walkers brand has put to good use in its promotional activity, whether it’s a campaign where consumers guess the flavour of the crisps or where they have to come up with something new and exciting. This year’s flavour campaign called ’Bring It Back’ gives crisp lovers the chance to vote for their favourite flavour to come back and join the Walkers range, alongside the Marmite flavour which has already made a return to the line-up. Consumers can choose from: barbeque, lamb & mint, toasted cheese, beef & onion and cheese & chive. They vote via and social media channels. The winning variant will be brought back and all those who vote will have the chance to win £100,000, as well as an array of exciting weekly prizes.

Walkers marketing director, Rachel Holms, comments: "Through extensive consumer research we know that our flavour campaigns are increasingly popular with shoppers. The campaign will drive excitement within the crisps, snacks and nuts category, while also helping retailers to increase incremental sales by offering shoppers the chance to try the limited-edition flavours and even win a £100,000 cash prize."

The Bring it Back range is available in single packs (rrp 57p), grab bags (rrp 89p), a six pack multipack (rrp £1.50) and a 24-pack multipack (rrp £4).

The bigger the better

Bobby’s Foods reports that its best-selling bagged snacks in forecourts are still its big bags. "With three big bags in our range BBQ Snack Mix, Onion Rings and Prawn Cocktail Spirals we are seeing 14% growth year-on-year," says marketing executive Chris Smith. And James Kemp, area sales manager at the Carsley Group, agrees, saying that big bags are big sellers in their stores, catering for the larger appetite of lorry drivers, along with barbecue season, when consumers stock up for parties.

James adds that the Bobby’s range has a vital part to play in the Group’s stores: "Customers usually expect to pay a high price in forecourts and by including a lower price-marked brand like Bobby’s, it enables us to capture customers with different price budgets. This also encourages them to purchase snacks on impulse because of their great value."

Spicy Bites is Bobby’s latest addition to its 39p Price Crunch range and the company expects it to soon be a top seller alongside BBQ Snax and Spirals.

Angela Masters, manager at Skinners Forecourt in East Sussex, says the Price Crunch packs sell well, in particular the prawn and salt & vinegar Spirals. "We get very busy on Sundays and it’s not uncommon for us to get families in to fill up the car and then buy six or more packs of the Price Crunch products."

Walkers too has recognised the need for value with the launch of 50p price-marked packs for its standard bags of crisps (ready salted, cheese & onion, salt & vinegar, prawn cocktail and smoky bacon) as well as Wotsits and Quavers.

The new packs are available now for a limited time. Matt Goddard, field sales director at PepsiCo, says Walkers price-marked crisps sell on average 20% quicker in impulse outlets than non-price-marked variants and, with the move back to 50p, he expects that to accelerate even further.

"Walkers standard price-marked packs are currently growing by 10.7%, and these seven value packs all sit within the top 30 single-serve best sellers (Nielsen)."

Going nuts

Finally, Bobby’s Foods is seeing sales growth from nuts, reporting that its range is currently showing 9.4% growth year-on-year in value and 15.2% year-on-year in volume (IRI).

To cash in on this growth trend, marketing executive Chris Smith advises retailers to stock a variety of flavoured nuts at various price points, to give consumers a choice. "Our core range includes salted peanuts (15 x 79p), dry roasted peanuts (15 x 79p) and roasted and salted cashews (18 x £1.09). They all come in display trays and to further enhance sales, we can provide clip strips to secondary-site them in-store."

At the moment, bags of salted peanuts feature 20% extra free. "This offer is available for a limited time only, while stocks last," says Smith. "Retailers are encouraged to take advantage of our clip strip point of sale, and combined with effective merchandising to maximise their sales potential."

Retailer view

Margo Paterson, Parkhouse Garage, Ardrossan, Ayrshire:
"We’re a Spar store so Spar helped us merchandise and we have crisps, snacks and popcorn all in one area.
"We currently have two packs of standard Walkers for £1.10, which sell very well and the new Spar big bags are doing well too. These are 150g bags for £1 things like onion rings and tortilla chips. The tortilla chips in particular are really popular because they are much cheaper than Doritos. Spar Burger Bites are another big seller. The Spar brand does well in our shop thanks to its quality and price.
"Our meal deal includes the grab-size bags of Walkers plain, cheese & onion and salt & vinegar as well as a sandwich and a drink, all for £3.
"The crisps are sited at the bottom of the meal deal chiller to make it easier for customers. But they don’t have to have crisps; they can choose a yogurt or chocolate instead if they want. The meal deal is very popular.
We have a secondary school close by so we get a lot of kids come in at lunchtimes.
"We also have multipacks when Spar has them on promotion typically Monster Munch pickled onion, Quavers or McCoys, and they are often price-marked at £1."

Top Tips for crisps and snacks

1Stock the best sellers and ensure the most popular brands are represented to appeal to the most customers.
2Ensure you have a clear offering for both single and sharing bags.
3Use manufacturer pos to highlight products, particularly when you introduce new lines.
4Make the most of manufacturers’ media investment by stocking and displaying products when activity is running.
6Crisps and snacks link with other categories, for example alcohol or dips. Consider cross-purchasing opportunities to maximise sales to help drive impulse purchases.
Source: Mondelez

What’s new?

New to the Phileas Fogg range is a 90g bag of American-style bubble chips in a Louisiana sweet & smokey BBQ flavour. The chips come in a £1 price-marked pack.
McCoy’s has a new look and a new paprika flavour. The packaging design has been created to ensure better shelf stand out.
Walkers has expanded its independents-only Max range with the launch of a flamin’ hot flavour.
There is a new Space Raiders beef grab bag, with a rrp of 55p.
Walkers Market Deli has a new variety: Anglesey sea salt potato chips. The launch is backed by a sampling campaign.
Pipers Crisps has made some colour changes to its packs to enable customers to identify the different flavours more easily. The biggest change is to the Kirkby Malham chorizo packs, which are now purple. Karnataka black pepper & sea salt packs are a darker black while Biggleswade sweet chilli packs are a deeper red.
Butterkist has launched Discoveries, described as a new ’taste-intense’ range. There are two flavours: hickory BBQ pulled pork and sweet chilli & zesty lime. Both come in 80g bags, rrp £1.49.

ahead of the game

Kettle Foods was really ahead of the game when it launched the UK’s first sharing bag some 25 years ago. Little wonder then that the bulk of its Kettle Chips business today is in sharing bags. However, smaller handypacks are now available too, launched to introduce more people to the brand.
And boy do people love the brand, so much so that it is the UK’s original and number one premium crisp (Nielsen data).
Kettle Foods’ head of impulse, Jim Couchman, puts the brand’s success down to the fact that everyone loves a great-tasting snack. And he reports great success in the forecourt sector.
"Why do we do well in forecourts?" he asks. "Because you get every walk of life in a forecourt and our brand has huge appeal."
He says there is definitely a trend towards better quality snacks in forecourts. "Kettle Chips have no artificial ingredients, no MSG, but what they do have are premium credentials and so are clearly recognised as a premium sharing brand."
But the single-serve packs sell well in forecourts too, especially if they are part of a meal deal. "People who are shopping a meal deal are looking for value so tend to gravitate to higher-price items because of the bigger potential saving. Some outlets name a specific brand as part of their meal deal but the most successful ones give customers a choice," Couchman explains.
He recommends dual siting single-serve bags in baskets under the sandwiches and the soft drinks to maximise meal deal sales or, if you don’t do meal deals, just to complete a lunch purchase. Then sharing bags near the off licence section for shoppers to take home for the evening.
He says that generally there’s not a huge difference in the price of Kettle Chips compared to other crisps maybe 10p or 15p a packet. "We have been offering price-marked packs for just under two years but they don’t tend to be stocked in forecourts. What does work well in forecourts is the ’two for a price’ deal, which is ideal for people travelling in a group and is good for retailers as it drives up the weight of purchase.
Lightly salted is Kettle’s best seller and Couchman says it’s perfect for dipping. The next best seller is sea salt & balsamic vinegar.
A new flavour has just been added to the core range crispy bacon & maple syrup, which is Kettle’s first crisp made with real meat. Couchman admits that it was a tall order trying to get a real meat flavour on a crisp, but they’ve done it and achieved a sweet and salty variety. And it would seem they’ve got it just right as he reports that initial sales are extremely encouraging.
Finally, Couchman reckons there’s definite room to grow distribution in forecourts and says he’s keen to talk to smaller independents, as well as national chains, in order to do this.