If you were asked to name UK consumers’ favourite snack what would you say? Crisps or chocolate perhaps? Well, according to Mintel, the UK’s favourite snack is fresh fruit! The company questioned 919 consumers, aged 16 and over, via the internet. Fifty eight per cent of them said fresh fruit was their favourite snack followed by chocolate and crisps/snacks. Perhaps they gave fruit as their reply because it sounded better than the fatty stuff or perhaps Mintel just happened to quiz the 919 healthiest consumers in the UK? It doesn’t really matter though as the research company reckons there are nearly 20 billion snacking occasions in the UK across the year so there’s plenty of room for other snacks to sell too. According to the research company, those 20 billion occasions break down to 13 billion at-home snacks and 6.4 billion on-the-go snacks.

Richard Brown, forecourt and travel controller at Pepsico, says his company has undertaken shopper research into impulse buying and found that for forecourt shoppers, snacks-to-go are the primary mission.

"However forecourts under-index on snacks versus confectionery and soft drinks so this represents a huge opportunity for retailers," he says. But the good news is that, according to Walkers internal stats, forecourt crisps and snacks sales are up 15% 5% more than the rest of the convenience sector.

Brown says ’one size does not fit all’ when it comes to snacks. "Both grab bags (50g) and standard bags (34.5g) should be available.

"We have had a strategy of reintroducing standard bags back into forecourts to appeal to female customers. And it’s a strategy that’s worked bringing 9.6% more consumers into the category. There is a genuine opportunity to increase sales if you provide the right choice."

That said, the 50g grab bag is the mainstay of the forecourt, accounting for 70% of sales. The big sellers are Walkers crisps in cheese & onion, ready salted and salt & vinegar flavours.

Brown’s thrust for 2011 is ’unmissable execution’: "It’s all about getting consumers to spend more and shop more frequently. So they need to see great choice and great value on-shelf.

Value offer

"Value is important in forecourts; after all, forecourt shoppers are looking for value in other places they shop, but in forecourts they will be on a different mission."

He believes that value is not all about buy-one-get-one-frees. "Forecourts can offer two grab bags for £1 or £1.20 and still give their customers great value."

Meal deals are popular, especially if executed correctly. If you want to see a good meal deal in operation, go to Boots. According to Him data, even outside typical lunchtime hours, 33% of shoppers will choose to shop in Boots specifically because of its meal deals.

Brown says the key thing with meal deals is to keep them as simple as possible and communicate their real value to the consumer.

"You also need to offer a wide choice of flavours and packs to represent different consumers’ needs."

He continues: "Retailers need to make it easier for their shoppers.

"For example, we’ve found that 71% of shoppers wouldn’t leave a queue to find crisps and snacks so they need to be merchandised at the till point.

"We have been trialling new queue merchandising. It’s very early days we are only weeks into it but it’s already looking really encouraging."

His top three tips for forecourts are:

1) For snacks-to-go missions, promote crisps with soft drinks and confectionery.

2) Merchandise snacks at the till point.

3) Promote new products on and off shelf new products can bring 45% incremental sales to the category (AC Nielsen) and very often attract lapsed consumers.

Moving on, and UB’s Phileas Fogg brand has joined forces with the Gourmet Society to offer consumers dining experiences in over 1,000 top restaurants nationwide.The on-pack promotion is running across sharing packs, £1 price-marked packs and handypacks.

By simply entering a code featured on the Phileas Fogg promotional packs on the brand’s website, www.phileasfogg.com, consumers will receive an instant reward of a ’two for one’ dining offer when they buy a main meal in one of over 1,000 participating restaurants.

In addition consumers are being offered other culinary experiences when they collect three or more Phileas Fogg packs.

Meanwhile, Kettle Foods reckons that by stocking Kettle Chips, forecourt retailers can capitalise on the popularity of better quality snacking options.

The brand is performing strongly in the impulse sector with year-on-year sales growth ahead of the market up 13.4% vs market growth of just 0.3%, according to Nielsen data.

Kettle Chips are made using real potato slices which are hand-cooked in sunflower oil, then seasoned with authentic flavourings.

No artificial colours, flavours preservatives or MSG are added to the process.

Kettle Foods recommends that forecourts stock the 40g single-serve bag as "an everyday, affordable treat". Nielsen stats show this pack size is delivering strong growth in a flat single-serve market up 33.4% in the 12 weeks to October 30.

Healthy move

Nick Stuart, commercial manager at UBUK, reckons healthy snacks represent a big sales opportunity for forecourts.

"Forecourts that don’t stock the right mix of healthy products will see their business suffer as customers will go elsewhere to get what they want.

"While historically women have been seen to be the main purchasers of healthier alternatives, we are witnessing strong growth among men and retailers should be stocking products that cater for them accordingly."

UB says it is improving the nutritional content of Go Ahead! by slashing the saturated fat content of its Fruit Bakes range by 50%.

The golden baked bars with a fruit flavoured filling, also have no artificial flavours or colours. And in addition to the reduction in saturated fat, the reformulated range now contains a selection of vitamins including calcium, iron, niacin, riboflavin (B2), vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin B6 and thiamin (B1).

The new nutritional content is highlighted to consumers via an on-pack flash communicating the saturated fat reduction, added vitamins and no artificial flavours or colours.

Even mainstream chocolate snacks are becoming more healthy. For example, Mars, Snickers, Milky Way and Topic now all contain at least 15% less saturated fat per bar compared with their previous recipes.

Mars says this breakthrough has been achieved without any change to the taste or quality of the products.

Bep Dhaliwal, trade relations manager at Mars, says: "The reduction, which removes more than 600 tonnes of saturated fat per year from the UK diet, is the latest step in Mars’ ongoing commitment to improve its products’ nutritional composition."

Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Squares have a big presence in forecourt shops. But more space needs to be made for them as the product will shortly be available in a new break-size format. These consist of five individual 26g bars in marshmallow and totally chocolatey varieties.

With sales of £37m and 29% sales growth (IRI September 2010), Rice Krispies Squares has doubled in size since 2008, which Kellogg’s says makes it integral to the growth of the cereal snacks category.

When it comes to merchandising, Dhaliwal recognises that space is at a premium for forecourt traders and says it’s vital that every fixture and fitting drives return.

"Once the main display features the optimum range and is driving sales in store, retailers should look to implement secondary confectionery sites or themed areas to capitalise on impulse sales.

"For example, siting confectionery at the till where footfall is at its highest, is just one great way of driving those impulse sales. Confectionery is the most impulsive category and the one that continues to generate strong sales. Retailers can grow sales further by identifying the right area in-store for additional sites."

Hot to trot

Finally, if you’re keen to offer your customers hot snacks why not try Glendale Foods new microwaveable toasted sandwiches.

The Yankee Ham & Cheese and Cheese & Onion Toasties are frozen products but they are pre-toasted and ready to heat and eat in under two minutes. Recommended retail price is £1.49. "Choosing the launch varieties was a bit of a no-brainer," says Glendale chairman, John Mortimer. "Ham and cheese are two of the top three sandwich ingredients. And cheese & onion is a top 10 sandwich filling.

"The average ready-to-eat sandwich now costs around £1.90, so at £1.49 we are providing an appetising and filling hot snack at a keen price point."

simple solution for brekkie on the go

Quaker Oats So Simple will shortly be available in a convenient pot format. Brand owner Pepsico reckons new Oats So Simple Pots will provide a huge incremental sales opportunity for forecourt retailers by catering for consumers who regularly eat their breakfast on the go.

Made from Quaker’s wholegrain oats and skimmed milk powder, consumers simply have to add hot water and stir, and their breakfast is ready in just two minutes! Ian Pate, Quaker brand manager, comments: "The breakfast occasion has grown by 70% in the past 10 years (Nielsen) presenting a great opportunity for retailers. The hot cereals category is currently growing at 9.3%, almost twice the rate of ready-to-eat cereals, but for some consumers speed and convenience still remain barriers to consumption. By removing these we expect Oats So Simple Pots to drive incremental sales and frequency of purchase, helping retailers to maximise the breakfast occasion."

New Oats So Simple Pots will be available from January in the three market-leading flavours: original, golden syrup and apple & blueberry. Rrp is 99p.

sweet sales tips

Siting a floor bin in the prime customer flow area in store, while using a price promotion, can increase sales by up to 450%

Placing a counter unit at the till can increase sales by up to 18%

Impulse units adjacent to magazines can increase sales by up to 15%

Place a floor bin adjacent to your Lotto stand 20% of Lotto buyers also buy confectionery

Using a wobbler on the main fixture will increase visibility and helps shoppers find products

Window posters promote product awareness when used in conjunction with other POS kit.

Source: Nestlé Field Audit 2009

Top 10 Single Serve crisps/snacks in forecourts

1.Walkers Big Eat cheese & onion 50-55g

2.Walkers Big Eat ready salted 50-55g

3.Quavers Big Eat 34g

4.Walkers Big Eat salt & vinegar 50-55g

5.Walkers cheese & onion 30-35g

6.Squares salt & vinegar 40g

7.Walkers Big Eat prawn cocktail 50-55g

8.Hula Hoops barbecue beef 55g

9.McCoys flame grilled steak 40-50g

10.Mega Monster Munch roast beef 40g

Source: Nielsen Scantrack 12 week ending data October 7, 2010