Even some of the most health conscious consumers find it hard to resist the temptation of a packet of crisps. In fact, according to Information Resources (IRI), 95 per cent of households buy crisps, snacks and nuts, making the category a lucrative money spinner for retailers.

Convenience and impulse outlets make up 33 per cent of all bagged snacks sales and, in forecourts alone, the market is worth £88m, which is five per cent of the total market and 11 per cent of impulse. Not only that, the category is also growing by six per cent in value in forecourts year on year.

Independent forecourt retailers appear to be doing the best job, growing the category by eight per cent year on year, compared to just four per cent in company-owned sites.

“Total forecourt growth is outstripp-ing the growth in managed sites,” says Jeremy Bartlett, Walkers category insights manager. “Total impulse is growing

5.5 per cent year on year.”

The key drivers of growth in the bagged snacks market are crisps – meaning sliced potato products. This sub sector represents 50 per cent of sales in forecourts and is growing in value by 16 per cent year on year. Snacks (brands such as Hula Hoops, Skips, and Doritos), while in a slight decline of three per cent, make up 44 per cent of all purchases. The remainder of the market is made up of nuts, which hold a three per cent share and is in decline by two per cent, and baked snacks such as Mini Cheddars, which make up the remaining three per cent and are in growth by five per cent year on year. The top 20 brands are worth 78 per cent of value sales.

Walkers and KP are pretty much neck and neck in growth terms in forecourts. Walkers’ products are growing by 12 per cent year on year, while KP snacks are showing growth of 13 per cent. IRI data also reveals that Golden Wonder and Pringles are both in decline by 16 per cent and 18 per cent respectively, bearing in mind that Walkers acquired the Wotsits brand from Golden Wonder late last year.

In terms of brand share, Walkers Crisps is worth £27m, while McCoys is worth £6m. And after just one year in the market, Sensations is now the third-largest brand in forecourts, worth £5.5m.

“Growth in the crisps sector is being fuelled by Sensations,” says Bartlett. “The brand overall is worth £62m and is certainly one of the biggest brand launches on record.”

In a bid to continue the success of Sensations, Walkers recently launched a lamb and mint flavour, plus a range of crackers, which the manufacturer hopes will give the snacks sub-sector a much needed boost with its 40p premium price point. “This launch will provide an attractive trade-up for forecourts,” explains Bartlett. “We’ve taken something considered a bit niche and made it premium mainstream.”

The range comes in three flavours – tangy Malaysian chutney, Thai lemongrass & coconut, and Peking spare rib & five spice. All are available in 24g impulse bags with a rrp of 40p, and sharing bags, which retail at £1.29.

The new Sensations crackers range will be supported by a commercial from the ‘posh crisps from Walkers’ camp. Taking over the reigns from Victoria Beckham will be ‘it’ girl Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. Tara will also join Gary Lineker in an advert to promote Sensations Crisps. Walkers will be spending a total of £20m to support its entire brand portfolio.

KP’s Real McCoys brand has been performing exceptionally well in forecourts. There are four flavours in the standard range, plus three more in the spiced range. The best-selling flavour is flame-grilled steak. “McCoys are well suited to forecourts because it’s a male targeted brand,” says KP sales controller Richard Pearson. “The marketing strategy for McCoys has been ‘drink beer, eat crisps’, and the 50g pack size means it’s more of a hunger fill, which is an area that’s growing by 50 per cent year-on-year in forecourts. Bigger pack sizes are all about getting customers to spend more per purchase.”

Meanwhile, KP’s Mini Cheddars brand increased in value by 30 per cent in forecourts last year. Advertisements aimed solely at the forecourt sector have also helped give the brand a boost and the company is looking to continue that support in the future.

“Again Mini Cheddars are more male targeted so the brand fits well in the forecourt market,” says Pearson. “It also delivers more variety than crisps – it fulfils a different snacking need. Retailers should review, where appropriate, upsizing to big bags to get people to spend more per purchase.”

Golden Wonder’s Wheat Crunchies is another brand that outperforms the whole grocery sector in forecourts. With a one per cent share across all outlets, Wheat Crunchies has just over three per cent share in forecourts. And in volume terms, Wheat Crunchies is up 43 per cent in forecourts, compared to 10 per cent across the total market.

“The consumer profile for the brand is very close to the profile of a forecourt shopper,” explains Golden Wonder marketing director Kirsty Taylor. “The target for Wheat Crunchies is 25-44 year-old males, they spend a lot of time in their car, they listen to commercial radio and are heavy users of forecourts.”

Nik Naks are also performing well in the forecourt sector, particularly following the sponsorship of The Osbornes TV show.

“Scampi & lemon Nik Naks are a strong match for the forecourt shopper,” points out Taylor. “Males typically like the stronger, quirkier flavours.”

The success of Wheat Crunchies and Nik Naks is largely an exception to the prevailing trend in bagged snacks on the forecourt, which is that crisps are driving the growth.

“Snacks are in slight decline so Wheat Crunchies and Nik Naks are bucking that trend,” explains Taylor.

When it comes to crisps, Golden Wonder holds a seven per cent share of the total market, with a bigger share in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It says its sale of Wotsits – which was worth three per cent of the total market – to Walkers last year has allowed the company to focus on other brands.

“In the past, from an investment perspective, our priority was Wotsits,” explains Taylor. “Since the sale we’ve been able to invest more in Wheat Crunchies and Nik Naks with phenomenal success.”

In fact, Nik Naks has grown by 8.6 per cent in volume sales, and Wheat Crunchies by 10.2 per cent, according to MAT. That’s compared to 0.8 per cent across the total snacks market.

The number four choice in forecourts is Pringles and, according to manufacturer Procter & Gamble, 17 million people buy the Pringles brand each year. Pringles has seen some product development over the past year with new flavours being launched, the most recent being Spanish salsa. The new flavour joins original salted, sour cream & onion, salt & vinegar, Texas barbecue sauce, cheese & onion, paprika, hot & spicy and Rights – the lower fat Pringles. Texas barbecue sauce, which was launched last September, has performed strongly and is now the number four Pringles flavour.


Limited-edition products are popping up throughout the grocery trade – be it confectionery (think KitKat Orange) or hot beverages (Options Banana) – and the snacks category is no exception.

Walkers’ Great British Flavours limited-edition range proved such a hit with UK consumers that the variants – Marmite, cheese & Branston pickle, and Heinz tomato ketchup – were given permanent status last year.

And to spice things up this summer, the company has introduced the Great British Takeaways range. The new limited-edition flavours are Chinese spare rib, sweet & sour, and chicken tikka massala.

The launch will be supported by a £2.5m campaign, including radio advertising and a new TV ad featuring Gary Lineker and Meera Syal, who plays Granny Sushila in The Kumars at No 42. The Bollywood style ad breaks on July 25 and will run for four weeks. In-store support includes Bollywood themed point of sale.

Walkers has also just launched a limited-edition French Fries fish & chips flavour. Available until the end of the year, the limited-edition flavour will feature newspaper-wrap style packaging and fish-shaped French Fries crisps. The product will be supported by kids’ press and Cartoon Network advertising, as well as an on-pack ‘Txt 2 Win’ promotion.

Walkers claims that limited-edition product launches not only drive brand awareness but also have a proven track record of success. For example, in 2002, Monster Munch Mystery Tongue achieved a 60 per cent increase in rate of sale versus the pickled onion flavour, which is the lead flavour in independents.


The nuts market could be in for a bit of a shake-up later this year. The sector has seen little innovation in recent years but KP is poised to inject some excitement into the market. This Christmas, the company will launch three new flavours of peanuts in 250g pots – mild Indian spice, vine grown tomato, and cracked black pepper – and KP hopes the products will drive new users to the category.

According to IRI data, the nuts market in forecourts is worth £2.6m, and is growing by 4.8 per cent year on year. KP holds a 55 per cent share and is growing that share by six per cent year-on-year.

KP says its best forecourt sellers continue to be 50g salted and dry roasted peanuts, but cashews and pistachios are also selling well. Pearson advises retailers to stock both 50g and 100g packs where possible. “Make sure that where appropriate, larger bags are available,” says Pearson. “Visibility is also key so secondary site units are recommended.”

Dormen Foods is an expanding supplier of nuts to petrol retailers. It currently supplies more than 1,500 forecourts, including the managed sites of Texaco, Shell, Total, Q8, Margram and Budgens. It has been supplying Texaco for over five years and in that time has increased the oil company’s nut sales by five times without promotions and now outsells its space in Texaco shops.

“Dormen’s range has consistently been one of the best selling and most profitable lines in our entire snacks range,” claims David Jenkins, Texaco category manager for consumer products in UK & Ireland.

In fact, over the past year, Texaco has made more money with Dormen’s Jumbo Cashews than any other snack product, with the exception of one variety of crisp.

The Dormen range comprises Japanese Rice Crackers (rrp 69p), Spicy Peanuts (79p), Caramelised Peanuts (89p), Jumbo Pistachios (99p), Mixed Nuts (49p), Jumbo Cashews (£1.59) and Caramelised Cashews (£1.59).


‘Big eat’ snack packs – typically 50g bags – are selling well in forecourts, but independents may not be maximising the opportunities there.

Walkers claims that in company-owned forecourts bigger eat packs make up

80 per cent of all impulse crisp purchases, whereas independents are achieving 37 per cent.

“There’s an opportunity for independents to trade customers up to big bags,” says Bartlett. “Retailers will hold on to unit sales but take an additional cash revenue – often 50 per cent or more – through big eat than the standard 35g pack.

“Forecourts should dual stock on the top three flavours of Walkers crisps which are ready salted, cheese & onion and salt & vinegar, and merchandise the big eat packs in the best locations. For all other flavours, just stock big eat varieties.”

While standard impulse packs dominate sales, with a 84 per cent share, which is growing by seven per cent year on year, many forecourts could be missing an opportunity in 100g-plus sharing bags.

“Sharing bags are in growth throughout the impulse market by 18 per cent,” says Walkers’ Jeremy Bartlett. “But forecourts are only growing the sharing bags market by four per cent.”

With the growth of sharing in mind, KP launched McCoys with dips earlier this year. The dips are merchandised in the bag, making the product ideal for forecourts where space is limited.


If you really want to maximise sales in the bagged snacks arena, be proactive and look at what promotions are available to you. One area where retailers have been particularly successful is in meal deals.

“Where a forecourt has sandwiches, a meal deal can drive increased frequency and loyalty to the category,” says Bartlett. “Our research tells us that 14 per cent of shoppers would visit the outlet more often, and 22 per cent would only use that store or use fewer stores. A headline promotion can really change the way people use your outlet.”

Golden Wonder’s Kirsty Taylor agrees that promotions can make all the difference when it comes to increasing sales of bagged snacks.

“It’s critical for independents to pass promotions they receive onto the consumer,” she says. “There’s loads of evidence to confirm that when offers are passed on to the consumer, they play a huge part in driving value sales.”


It’s no secret that disciplined merchandising can improve sales. “Give the best sellers sufficient space on shelf and in high traffic locations because when it comes to impulse products, if the customer doesn’t see it, they won’t buy it,” explains Bartlett. “Try putting the biggest and best selling products at the till point.”

Bartlett also suggests retailers think about how shoppers consume the products on sale: “We’re seeing a high degree of affinity with soft drinks so putting the two together will help customers make the choice.”

Walkers’ research into what products are consumed together revealed that on 50 per cent of occasions when crisps are eaten, a soft drink is consumed too, while 16 per cent of sandwiches are consumed with crisps.

Walkers also advises forecourts with an off licence to dual merchandise sharing bags with beer and wine, creating a ‘big night in’ fixture.

Golden Wonder’s Kirsty Taylor says: “Make sure everyone’s needs are met when they come into a forecourt environment. For those with limited space, it’s even more important that they get the range right. Forecourt owners should think more along the lines of less is more and focus on the top selling SKUs.

“Secondary display units will help drive visibility of brands and incremental sales,” she adds. “With bagged snacks being very much an impulse category, dump bins at the front of the store are ideal.

“All too often we over-complicate things but if retailers focus on the basics such as top sellers, visibility and availability, and get those right, that’s the best way to drive value sales.”