The demands of modern-day life are pushing consumers to skip meals and grab snacks on the go, which is great news for the snacks category. But the way we snack is changing. Brits are shunning crisps in favour of lower-calorie, nutritious options. In fact, the number of people snacking on traditional potato crisps has dropped from 67% to 57% in the past year, according to Mintel research.

“42% of all UK households have purchased healthier crisps and snacks in the past year, and 60% of consumers look for healthy options when food shopping,” says Kettle Foods’ head of impulse, Andy Verney. Kettle Chips has helped wholesalers to cash in with the launch of Kettle Bites, which contain less than 100 calories per pack.

Savoury snacks are growing at 20%, according to Susan Nash, trade communications manager at Mondelēz International. The brand made an impact with the launch of Ritz Crisp & Thin in 2015 and the explosion of baked snacks has continued ever since, with further growth forecast for next year.

“Wellbeing is a mega-trend that is changing consumers’ eating habits,” says Nash. Crisps used to be the “heartland” of savoury snacks, but the product has seen a dramatic decline of 25% over the past 10 years – a trend that is not expected to reverse any time soon.

Sharing is caring

Formats are also changing, and while the convenience crisps and snacks market is dominated by handy packs, the decline in the category means wholesalers need to capitalise on bigger bags.

bowl of crisps“Sharing continues to grow, and is up by 12%,” says Kettle’s Verney, who forecasts further growth in this area next year.

Burton’s has responded to the health trend with the launch of its special edition baked Turkey ’n’ Chips bags. The brand entered the savoury sector early in 2014, generating sales in excess of £25m with Burton’s Fish ’n’ Chips and Cathedral City Baked Bites: “As they are baked, rather than fried, they tick the ‘better for you’ box,” says David Costello, head of category and shopper management at Burton’s.

Wellaby’s offers a baked option for on-the-go consumers with its Simple Bakes crisps, which the company claims contain zero allergens and 70% less fat than standard potato crisps.

Strategic development director Sue Warren, says: “There is a huge opportunity for wholesalers to offer a ‘better for you’ snack and succeed with it in 2017. Allergens are a common theme among healthy eaters and those with specific dietary needs, so Simple Bakes is a snack that everyone can feel free to enjoy.”

Allergens zero, protein hero

The free-from market is forecast to hit £531m by the end of this year, and more than half of free-from consumers are planning to eat more free-from products next year, research from analyst Mintel found: “One in three UK consumers who buy gluten-free foods say they want to see more on-the-go snack items,” says Emma Sayers, social media and PR manager for protein bar manufacturer Primal Pantry.

It is not just allergen-free options that health-conscious shoppers are looking for – protein is also in demand. “Snacks that are healthier and higher in protein offer a more satisfying alternative to curb hunger pangs,” says Sayers.

Primal Pantry is offering wholesalers a range of energy bars that combine the demands for free-from and high-protein.

“We predict that the next product to have a big impact on the snacking market will be high-protein,” Sayers adds. The company is responding by adding a new flavour bar, Cocoa Brownie, to its range early next year.

One brand that is yielding results with free-from fruity snacks is Nim’s. Its Fruit and Vegetable Crisps are made with natural, air-dried fruit and vegetables, and are gluten-free. While the brand has had success with multiple retailers such as Holland & Barrett, there is a big opportunity to increase distribution with c‑stores in 2017.

“Parents are looking to source healthier snacks for lunch boxes and after-school clubs, but are struggling to find a good selection of ‘great tasting’ alternatives in independent shops,” says Nim’s founder Nimisha Raja.

“This is where wholesalers and their customers have such an important role in getting healthier snacks to a wider audience.”

Lighter options top of the pops

One snack that will continue to make a real bang in the snacking category in 2017 is popcorn, which has shifted out of the movie-night arena, and has become an everyday snacking occasion.

In September 2016, Kettle Foods took full ownership of UK premium popcorn brand Metcalfe’s Skinny: “Metcalfe’s Skinny brand continues to grow at 26%, more than double the performance of the total popcorn market, which grew by 11%”, says Kettle’s Verney.

Injecting fun flavours into the category is PepsiCo, which has launched Pop Works & Company, a brand new popcorn brand, which uses a ‘wet popping’ method.

As traditional mealtimes are continuously eroding, snacking continues to be an important growth category for wholesalers and their customers. More than half of those who eat snacks say they do so to satisfy hunger between meals – retailers and caterers with the right solutions will truly take the cake in 2017.


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