When it comes to snacking, consumers just can’t help acting on impulse. And, as the credit crunch squeezes shoppers, many feel they deserve to splurge on that occasional treat even more. According to AC Nielsen data, crisps and snacks is the only category within impulse that is currently in growth - up 3.8% (total market 52 w/e November 11, 2008). And as impulse snacking is worth £4.2bn a year, that 3.5% equates to a lot of sales.

To make the most of this opportunity, retailers are advised to look at the current key drivers in the sector: healthier options and more premium products.

Walkers says the opportunities for "better for you" snacking look very healthy, with TNS reporting 55 million crisps, nuts or snacks eating occasions motivated by health last year.

Kirk Tanner, Walkers vice president impulse UK & Ireland, says: "The UK’s love of bagged crisps, nuts and snacks is as strong as ever as manufacturers ensure they meet today’s macro trends of health and wellness, need to treat and value-for-money. Consumers believe they deserve the occasional treat as part of a balanced diet, but at the same time expect it to boast real food values. And shoppers now expect similar levels of ingredient provenance and environmental credentials from their favourite crisps and snacks as they do other foods.

"If crisps, nuts or snacks can deliver all this in a convenient format, and taste fantastic, consumers feel they are getting true value for money."

According to Walkers, better-for-you products are so important that they are now a sector in their own right. What is more, the company predicts that they will predominantly drive total category growth over the next few years.

Jennie Miller, Kellogg’s senior category insight manager snacks, says: "There is a real trend in the UK of people being more concerned about health and well being. Consumers are actually saying that they want to snack more healthily. Twice as many people are buying products because of their health as they were about 10 years ago. So this is an opportunity for retailers to make sure they’ve got the products for these shoppers."

== Let’s go nuts ==

Meanwhile, the snacking nuts category is worth £213m and is growing at 1% year-on-year (Nielsen total coverage 52 w/e November 11, 2008). Walkers says its nuts brand, Nobby’s, is outperforming the category with 19% growth over the same period.

Again, health continues to be a key trend driving growth - with many consumers considering nuts to be a natural and healthy snack, a factor highlighted by the rising sales of naturally healthy nuts such as almonds.

According to Procter & Gamble, another major trend is the rising popularity of extreme flavours. The manufacturer says that large sharing snacks are now worth £447.2m (IRI epos sales 52 w/e April 2009), with Pringles as the market leader. Sales of extreme-style flavours grew by 13% in 2008 (TNS Worldpanel) and are worth £97.6m. TNS data shows that these flavours are already bought by half of all UK households. P&G is investing in the segment with the launch of new Pringles Xtreme. Available in flavours that it says are "way outside consumers’ comfort zones", Xtreme comes in exploding cheese & chilli, smokin’ ribs, flamin’ chilli sauce and fiery wasabi. Target customers are 16- to 35-year-olds.

Paul Lettice, P&G trade communications manager, says: "This latest launch really pushes the flavour boundaries of the brand to a genuinely new level. We know that extreme flavours are enormously popular at the moment, particularly with younger consumers, and the fun, bright packaging will provide a strong stand-out on shelf next to other snack products."

Meanwhile, Valerie Kubala, Wall’s pastry senior brand manager, says that premium products play a very important role within snacking. She says sales of the company’s ’Full of Filling’ pastry range has rocketed to the number two brand position in the impulse market just 18 weeks after launch. According to Wall’s, the new range currently holds a 15% value share of the impulse market and is already worth £8.1m (AC Nielsen).

Kubala adds: "Our research showed that while over 90% of households purchased pastry products, most didn’t buy them regularly because they were considered poor quality and not good value for money - until now. Our success proves that there was a gap in the market for a high-quality pastry snack product."

Walkers’ Tanner says that the premium positioning is also key within sharing snacks. In February the company launched Red Sky crisps, which it says offers "the best of nature with its great taste coming from using only 100% natural ingredients". With more eco-friendly packaging, the range is also designed to appeal to consumers’ consciences - for every 150g bag sold, 10ft of endangered rainforest is protected through charity Cool Earth, and 5ft for every 40g sold.

And there’s evidence that shoppers are happy to spend more than they intended on snacks. According to Him’s Convenience Tracking Programme Spring 2009 Shopper Report, 83% of crisps and snacks shoppers in forecourts intended to spend £1 or less on the category on their visit, but only 74% actually spent that amount. In comparison, 17% intended to spend between £1.01 and £5, but 25% actually spent this much, showing shoppers are willing to dig a bit deeper for a tasty treat they spot in store.

== Getting sweet ==

Shoppers who fancy a sweet snack are also opting for healthier options. Stephen Clifford, marketing controller at Country Choice, says: "Products containing fruit and seeds are selling well, possibly because they are being targeted by consumers who regard them as a healthier option to pastries.

"At the same time, the consumer desire to purchase small treats or rewards that are not ’too bad for you’ is reflected in the success of mini-sized products such as doughnuts and muffins. Often, these are replacing purchases of chocolate bars."

According to General Mills UK, successful retailers will be the ones who provide shoppers with snacks that are "relevant, convenient and in demand". The company has seen great success with Nature Valley, which is now the UK’s number one crunchy snack bar (IRI grocery impulse outlets - value sales 52 w/e July 11, 2009).

Andy Foweather, the company’s sales director, says: "Success for forecourt retailers is down to ensuring they have the right offering to reflect the needs of their shoppers.

"Forecourt shoppers seek snacks that offer instant satisfaction and which are suitable for consumption on the go. Nature Valley delivers on both counts; with two bars in every pack and its crunchy texture, wholegrain ingredients and great taste, Nature Valley stands out from similar products on the market."

== Emotional needs ==

In addition, Foweather says consumers demand products that meet their "rational and emotional snacking needs". He explains: "Nature Valley meets the practical need of hunger while also delivering against consumers’ emotional needs. Nature Valley is all about the break, taking a pause in the day. It’s very much seen by consumers as something to look forward to."

According to Foweather, retailers also have something to look forward to because Nature Valley’s retail prospects are in good shape as the cereal bar continues to perform extremely well. During the past 12 months, the brand has increased sales value by 34.4% (IRI data) and this growth has recently helped Nature Valley pass the £11.5m mark.

General Mills is spending £4m on a marketing campaign for Nature Valley, including national TV ads which invite consumers to take a pause in their day.

Premier Foods is targeting healthier snacking with its new individual ambient desserts - part of a £20m investment over three years in the market. New products include a twin-pot range under the Ambrosia brand: Crumble Puds.

These individual ambient desserts contain Ambrosia Devon custard and fruit compote with crumble on the side. They can be eaten hot or cold and come in three flavours: apple, rhubarb and peach (rrp 69p).

Premier is supporting the launch with an integrated marketing campaign including TV advertising with the theme ’Ambrosia Feel Good Puds’.

It has also launched Hartley’s Frujies, a range of fruit in jelly. Designed to be included in kids’ lunchboxes, they are available in mandarins in orange jelly and peaches in strawberry jelly variants.

Meanwhile, mums are catered for with Hartley’s adult pot range of Fruit in Jelly in raspberries in raspberry jelly and pineapple in pineapple jelly variants. The pots are fat free and contain less than 100 calories (rrp 69p).

== Sticking together ==

Kellogg’s says its research shows that all confectionery products should be merchandised together within the store, with shoppers saying they see Rice Krispie Squares and Crunchy Nut bars as confectionery products - and so they expect to find them with other chocolate brands.

According to Kellogg’s, about two in three snacks purchases are pre-planned, so customers know what they want and where to look for it.

This means that by merchandising ’better for you’ items next to more traditional items retailers can maximise sales in those categories.

The company says it has seen sales uplifts of between 100-200% for its products when they’re merchandised in the confectionery fixtures in stores.

United Biscuits UK says another trend in sweet snacking is the growing popularity of tear and share pouches - the company has launched McVitie’s Mini pouches to capitalise on this.

They are available in three mini versions of biscuits: McVitie’s Mini Milk Chocolate Digestives, Mini Milk Chocolate HobNobs and McVitie’s Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies variants.

The 125g pack sizes are aimed at consumers who want a convenient, pleasurable treat on-the-go or in the home (rrp £1.29).

Sarah Heynen, UB marketing director, says: "Sales of pouches are currently outgrowing traditional confectionery formats and driving the market.

"The new format is designed for consumers who want to share some of their favourite biscuits in a mini serving format.

"Sited next to confectionery, our research has shown that sales of the range can improve dramatically and deliver incremental sales alongside existing sweet impulse snacking products"

Meanwhile, Country Choice’s Clifford highlights the important role that coffee plays in driving impulse sales of sweet snacks and pastries.

He explains: "Where coffee is offered alongside the sweet snack display it creates more traffic, added interest, and therefore proves to be a profit generator. There is also an opportunity to broaden sales of sweet pastries outside of their traditional morning role.

"Products such as croissants, for example, are now eaten throughout the day. But while items such as Viennoiserie, muffins and doughnuts appeal to a fairly young audience, fruited products and Danish pastries tend to have an older following so it is important to stock up across the range to capture maximum sales opportunities all day long."


=== product news: ===

l Kellogg’s has launched a new campaign for its Nutri-Grain soft bake bar range which now contains "more fruit filling". From October there will be a specific event designed to drive sales of single packs in impulse channels including forecourts.

l Symington’s has launched ’Golden Wonder: The Nation’s Noodle’. The move follows an agreement between Symington’s and crisps and snacks manufacturer Tayto Group Ltd for Symington’s to use the Golden Wonder brand for a hot noodle snacking option. Flavours include chicken & mushroom, beef & tomato, sweet & sour and chip shop curry (all under the Nation’s Noodle name) as well as spicy tomato, spaghetti bolognese and macaroni cheese (The Nation’s Pasta). All are aimed at males between 12 and 30.

l Walkers is running a retro t-shirt on-pack promotion across its Mega Monster Munch 40g and 85g range that is designed specifically for the impulse channel. To get their hands on one of the t-shirts consumers need to buy three packs of Monster Munch and send in the empty packs with a cheque for £5. According to Walkers, the mechanic is reminiscent of ’80s-style collectable promotions and continues the retro theme.

l This summer saw Burton’s Foods introduce Maryland, Jammie Dodgers and Cadbury Fingers in Snack Bites pouch packs. The company says the format targets the growing need for "a baked permissible snack ideal for out of home". Rrp is £1.59.

l Premier Foods has added Cadbury Fudge Bites to the Cadbury Cake Bites range. Rrp is £2.49.

l BP’s Wild Bean Café has introduced a new black forest muffin. Rrp is £1.39 and it is available until mid October.

l Crantock Bakery has added some "great British favourites" to its pasty range. Its Autumn Specials include roast chicken, which is described as "an entire meal in a pasty containing roast chicken, stuffing, swede, potato, peas, carrots and gravy". There is also a bangers & mash and bacon & brie pasty.