Snacking is changing

In the UK, we still spend plenty of money on snacks. But our habits are changing, and brands need to innovate to keep and find customers in this changing market.
29 May 2018
snacks granola bites
kirsty cooke

Head of Digital Content

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There are two big factors impacting how we snack in the UK: health concerns and, more surprisingly technology. The snack food industry – well aware that they must tap into emotional as well as physical needs – is now competing with our smartphones for attention in those moments of boredom, pain, fatigue or self-indulgence. There’s also space to innovate around the new trends in health, as consumers opt for all-round nutrition (or ‘total health’) as opposed to low-calorie or ‘diet’ snacks.

Health and the breakfast snack

Tapping into the on-the-go breakfast market, brands like Belvita have launched breakfast biscuits, and positioned these products in vending machines – creating a whole new snacking moment.

But Kantar data shows that breakfast bars are starting to go out of fashion, being replaced by fruit and granola bars. The healthy snack bar market is now worth £365m, growing 1.5% over the year to 31 December 2017 – that’s 560,000 new shoppers and 61% penetration of the UK market. Fruit and granola bars were up 9.3%

‘As people switch to balanced health and fruit and granola bars, breakfast bars have seen a 4.6% decrease in sales (by value). Penetration is actually up 2.9% as breakfast-on-the-go is still popular, but people just don’t buy them as often,’ comments Benjy Owusu-Daaku at Kantar Worldpanel.

Kantar also found that a third of shoppers are paying no more than £1 per pack for their healthy snack bar – so price is still an important factor.

Packing a flavour punch

Anjali Puri, from the Insights division of Kantar, suggests that snack foods need to ramp up the sensory hit if these brands are going to compete with our devices for our attention. ‘Sharper flavours and formats can help cut through the noise at a moment when blander and more traditional snack foods might melt into the background. A plethora of surprising, inventive flavours and textures are emerging to respond to the more adventurous palates of consumers. Increasing popularity of snacks like chilli chocolate, wasabi nuts and Bombay mix suggests people are lusting after harder-hitting, more exotic flavours.’

The healthy snack bar market is also a relevant place to find this trend. NPD in the market has increased by 25% on the previous year, says data from Kantar's Worldpanel division, but snacks in general have seen a massive explosion since 2013.

‘Since 2013, the number of “unique” flavours within Savoury Snacks has increased by around 300 – a 21% increase,’ says Owusu-Daaku. ‘Consumer interest in food trends, and media coverage of street food and health, have eventually trickled down into the category. Brands rather than supermarkets are leading the way (767 vs 491), and this is most evident with Sensations from Walkers – the original Premium crisp, which has recently refreshed its range and added the successful Steak & Chimichurri, Wasabi & Ginger, and Mango & Red Chilli Chutney flavours, tapping into the Mexican, Japanese & Indian food trends respectively. Individually these flavours have reached over 2% of the population.’

A new era for snacking

Puri concludes: ‘To reclaim some of the airtime lost to today’s customer’s lightning paced lives and addiction to technology, brands must understand the exact drivers that prompt us to pick up a bite to eat.’ They also need to understand that low calorie is not what health-conscious customers are necessarily looking for, and that price is still a key factor in our decision-making.

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