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Our national pastime
09 June, 2017

The average person in the UK now eats crisps, nuts or popcorn seven times a week, making us the largest (possibly literally) snackers in Europe. This news comes courtesy of Channel 4's recent documentary called Secrets of our Favourite Snacks. For the show, Kantar spoke to 11,000 people about their snacking habits. It found that the UK's snacking hotspot was the North West, where people were the most frequent buyers, and 8pm-10pm was the most popular time to indulge. And their favourite flavour? Good old cheese or cheese & onion.

According to Kantar data, flavour is still the number one sales driver in crisps and snacks, with 65% of purchase decisions based on taste. What is more, 53% of snacks consumers are prompted to buy a product when they see new flavours in store. One brand that's big on flavour is, of course, McCoys, which trades really well in the forecourt arena. Must-stock lines are Flame Grilled Steak, Salt & Vinegar and Cheddar & Onion Grab Bags, which are all currently in growth.

Another brand well known for its flavours is Sensations, which is being repositioned as "A Feast For The Senses".

Activity kicks off with three exotic new flavours: Japanese Sweet Wasabi & Ginger and Chargrilled Steak & Chimichurri are being added to the crisp range (150g packs); while Mango & Red Chilli Chutney joins the poppadom range (82.5g packs). The three new varieties are expected to appeal to shoppers who are looking for new and exciting flavours as they ranked in the top 10% for 'uniqueness' in recent consumer testing.

Andrew Hawkswell, marketing manager at PepsiCo, comments: "We know shoppers love Sensations with over 50% purchasing again so it is important that we keep them interested by bringing them a brand that feels premium, modern and exciting. The brand is one of the stars in the Walkers portfolio and we're seeing impressive growth as more shoppers choose Sensations.

"These exotic flavours are not only new and interesting, but are also perfectly timed for the summer period, enabling retailers to capitalise on shoppers searching for flavours inspired by exotic places."

Sensations is also being supported with TV advertising and digital activations as part of a wider marketing campaign to further establish the brand in the savoury snacks category.

Meanwhile, Jacob's has added two new seasonal flavours to its Cracker Crisps range: Mature Cheddar Ploughmans and Roast Chicken, Thyme & Lemon.

The two variants are available in a new pack design to differentiate them from the core flavours. They come in 150g sharing bags, rrp £1.89.

In addition, the total range is being supported by a new £4m campaign that includes TV, video on demand, digital and social media support. There will also be PR and sampling, to continue to drive the core range, as well as drive trial of the new seasonal flavours.

Over at Kellogg's, they may not have new flavours for Pringles but the brand is now offering consumers the 'perfect flavour in every bite'. Kellogg's marketing director for snacks, Clare Furlonger, explains: "We recently undertook a three-year redevelopment programme to create according to consumers our best-tasting Pringles yet. As part of this revamp, we've added extra seasoning to the range, delivering the 'perfect flavour in every bite'. The new chips will be more golden in colour and we're adding ingredients to create more of a crunch."

Later this summer, the popular Pringles 'buy two cans' promotion returns, where shoppers can get a free wireless speaker by collecting codes from their Pringles. Furlonger says the promotion is perfect for retailers looking to attract shoppers preparing for parties, family gatherings or picnics and barbecues.

While all the aforementioned snacks are very much in the 'savoury' camp, the trend for sweet and savoury continues. Metcalfe's Skinny's first new seasoning launch for this year is Salted Caramel. The new flavour is available in sharing and impulse packs and is said to contain 30% less saturated fat than typical Salted Caramel popcorn that's available on the market. The concept researched extremely well, with almost 90% of consumers surveyed rating the flavour as 'very appealing' or 'appealing'. It is also suitable for vegetarians, high in fibre and contains only 114 calories per serving.

Nuts on the go

It wasn't that long ago that peanuts were only brought out for snacking at parties or were eaten with a pint down the pub. Now thanks to huge interest in protein, nuts are more popular than ever. According to Nielsen data, KP remains our favourite brand, worth £59m, which is seven times its nearest competitor.

The brand is going for further sales with a new on-the-go range of handy-sized packs of nuts and energy mixes that offer a natural source of protein and fibre to keep hunger at bay. The four-strong range comprises: Original Salted Peanuts (50g) Dry Roasted Peanuts (50g) as well as new Fruit & Nut Energy Mix (roasted peanuts and almonds/raw hazelnuts and raisins, 40g) and new Orange Nut Fudge Energy Mix (roasted peanuts, raw almonds, orange infused cranberries and fudge, 40g).

In addition, KP is hoping to attract younger consumers with flavours developed for younger palates. While we've already mentioned that flavour is a key purchase driver in crisps and snacks, nuts is currently an underdeveloped segment versus crisps 79% of crisp and snack SKUs are flavours, while only 30% of nuts are flavoured. KP believes this offers a huge sales opportunity, with insights showing that if this grew by 5% it would be worth an incremental £10m to the nuts category. Flavour is driving growth in peanuts, with chilli (+40.5%) and BBQ or meat flavours (+19.8%) proving particularly popular.

KP's latest additions available in 225g packs are Salted Caramel and Smokehouse BBQ, which join the existing Honey Roast, Salt & Vinegar and Spicy Chilli. The two new flavours have both received fantastic feedback pre- and post-trial, with a strong level of purchase intent among younger consumers.

Andy Riddle, branded sales director for KP Snacks, comments: "This latest innovation forms part of our insight-led, brand passion driven strategy across our entire portfolio. Our aim is to continue to launch products that meet consumer demand, teamed with marketing campaigns that really resonate with the target audience. The new on-the-go range and the innovative new flavour range are born from extensive insight and research with both scoring extremely positively for concept and product within our target younger, female demographic."

KP is backed by a £3m multi-media marketing campaign this summer, which brings the brand back to UK TV screens for the first time in 25 years.

There's no doubting the fact that some consumers are looking for healthier snacks. Indeed an online survey by natural food brand Kallo found that over 50% of consumers in the UK are eating packaged, healthier snacks such as rice cakes, cereal bars and nuts at least once a day.

It found the number of consumers who eat packaged healthier snacks had risen notably (by 12%) since the brand's research last year. And, of these consumers, younger adults, Londoners and people with children are the most likely to enjoy a healthy snack.

Eighty-two per cent of respondents agreed that choosing healthy food and drink for themselves and their families is important, while 71% said they are eating more healthy food now than in the past. Almost two-thirds (65%) also see living a healthy lifestyle as their top priority. But almost one fifth (18%) of those asked believe it's only fitness enthusiasts who buy health foods.

Beth Roxburgh, Kallo brand manager at Wessanen UK, comments: "The findings of our latest survey show that there is a big opportunity for brands and retailers operating within the healthy snacking category. Healthy lifestyles are becoming increasingly sought after, yet there is still plenty of scope to actively support consumers to adopt a better approach to food."

Kallo's low-calorie snacking portfolio includes a range of rice cakes and corn cakes based on simple, natural ingredients with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.

The brand has experienced an 8% increase in value sales in the past 52 weeks (IRI data) with 2.5 million UK households now buying Kallo rice and corn cakes (Kantar).

Another better-for-you snack enjoying sales growth is Burts' Lentil Waves range. IRI figures show 74% sales growth year-on-year and have it as the fastest- growing better-for-you snack in the market.

Burts recently strengthened its range with the launch of Quinoa Crinkles, which come in Sweet Pepper & Chorizo and West Country Cream Cheese varieties. Seasoned with natural flavours, the Crinkles feature 45% less fat than Burts Sea Salt potato chips, are gluten free and a source of fibre. And, as with all Burts Chips products, they are free from MSG, artificial flavourings and colourings. Each 20g bag contains less than 90 calories.

Simon Knight, sales and marketing director at Burts Chips, says: "With innovation and taste at the heart of Burts Chips, we wanted to create a healthy new snacking concept following the success of our Lentil Waves range. The Better For You market is now worth approximately £145m (IRI data) so our new product will lead the way in this growing category."

Debbie King, director of commercial sales and marketing at Eat Real Snacks, says that with younger drivers and the 'millennial' population fuelling the growth of good-for-you snacking purchases, forecourt retailers should be offering a range of alternatives to traditional snacks and confectionery if they want to maximise appeal.

Eat Real Snacks was launched just three years ago and is already achieving sales of £15m a year. The company's pulse and grain-based snacks, which include Hummus Chips, Lentil Chips and Quinoa Chips in a range of flavours, are available in 20g-25g bags which are perfect as food-to-go lines, 30-45g grab bags and the larger 80g-135g sharing packs, ideal for bigger eats or as a take-home option.

"With more and more people opting for lifestyle diets of choice, it's critical that forecourt retailers offer a wide range of healthier alternatives if they are to maximise sales," says King.

To help retailers capitalise on the trend for guilt-free snacking, she advises siting healthier options in a prominent position while making the most of the pos material and display solutions offered by manufacturers.

"Offering as wide a range of products and flavours as possible will stimulate trial and encourage repeat purchase, while dedicated fixtures that are clearly labelled and share details of which ingredients and allergens are in the products will help maximise sales. Focusing on the benefits also allows consumers to make more informed choices, while different pack sizes help generate trial and interest," she adds.

Eat Real's Hummus Chips, Lentil Chips, Quinoa Chips, Quinoa Puffs and Veggie Straws are available in a range of flavours including Sea Salt, Chilli & Lemon, Sundried Tomato & Roasted Garlic, Creamy Dill, Jalapeno & Cheddar and Hot & Spicy. Containing less fat than traditional potato crisps (for example, Hummus Chips 48% less, Lentil Chips 40% less) they're also suitable for vegan, gluten-free (except Quinoa Chips), lactose-free and Kosher diets.

"We're finding that retailers are now experiencing high rates of sale and in many cases, sales of more than double the category average, by stocking Eat Real snacks," adds King.

Eat Real has this year invested £250,000 in NPD and its first-ever consumer marketing campaign comprising high profile advertising, PR and social media. "Investment in the category and the resulting increased awareness will help drive consumers to the fixture," says King.

Looking ahead, she predicts an increasingly 'health-centric society' which will drive demand for healthier options. "Consumer demand for healthier, plant-based products will continue to grow and this will only increase the opportunities for forecourt retailers," she adds.


Fulfilling a real need

Fulfil Vitamin & Protein bars are now listed in 387 WH Smith travel stores nationwide. Containing 100% of an adult's recommended daily allowance of nine vitamins, with 20g of protein and low sugar, Fulfil is described as "the perfect convenient and tasty treat, without any of the residual guilt from a chocolate bar".
One of Fulfil's founders, Niall McGrath, says the product's target audience is a "health conscious, on-the-go person who is looking for low sugar, low-calorie snacks without sacrificing taste and with the benefit of 20g of protein and a full multivitamin".
WH Smith is stocking six variants: Peanut & Caramel, Chocolate Caramel & Cookie Dough, White Chocolate & Cookie Dough, Coconut & Chocolate, Milk Chocolate & Mint and Cookies & Cream, with all bars retailing at £2.29. Ian Rankin, trading controller at WH Smith Travel, says: "Our team is always looking for up-and-coming snack brands. We are delighted to partner with Fulfil, as we are one of the leading retailers in the market investing in the healthier eating agenda."


Retailer view

"Our biggest sellers are Walkers, McCoys and Quavers in grab bags.The Walkers grab bag is included in our £3.49 meal deal, which is a very popular offer.
"As a Spar store we also stock Spar brand snacks and they are popular because they are cheaper and great for people on a budget. We're in the heart of a big residential area so price is important. We're more of a c-store than a typical forecourt store so we stock multipacks of crisps too, where customers can pick up six packs for the price of two standard packs."


Meat for on the move

Forecourts are generally doing well with sales of jerky but are under- trading in biltong. That's the message from James Newitt, managing director at Meatsnacks Group. For anyone who doesn't know the difference between jerky and biltong, jerky is made from sliced, marinated meat which is then cooked and smoked, whereas biltong is made from sliced, marinated meat which is then air dried.
Newitt says his company's Wild West Jerky has a 64% value share of the jerky/biltong market in UK forecourts while Cruga Biltong has just an 8% share. "Biltong has a big opportunity to grow the category as in the wider market it makes up 33% of sales but under-trades in forecourts," he explains. 
He adds that his firm's research has revealed that consumers are using jerky as a meal replacement, as an alternative to other snacks and as an appetite suppressant.
"We know that consumers are looking for healthier snacks to eat when they are out and about. Our smaller packs provide individual portions that are always fresh."


Seed snack solution

Seeds are fast gaining popularity as a snack but they aren't always that convenient to carry around. Victoria Health Food has the answer though with its new Squbes which are bite-size savoury seed cubes.
Available in Spiced Sesame & Almond and Sea Salt & Black Pepper varieties, the cubes contain dozens of nutritious seeds in every bite and no refined sugar. They are made without wheat, are high in fibre and are a source of protein, magnesium and good fats.
Squbes come in a 100g re-sealable pack (rrp £2.50) and 30g sachets (rrp 90p). Both varieties contain 167 calories per 30g packet and are suitable for vegetarians.
Helen O Dowd, qualified nutritionist, food scientist and founding director for Virginia Health Foods, comments: "With the current trends for health and wellness, consumers are looking for alternative snacking options that meet their needs for a wholesome but delicious treat. Squbes is a nutritious savoury concept packaged in handy resealable bags so we are confident this range will be a success."


Following a deal agreed with Harvest Energy, do you think it will be good to see the Total brand returning to UK forecourts?