While the segment may be constantly evolving to meet ever-changing customer demand, the ongoing importance of salty snacks to convenience store profitability remains undiminished.
According to the most recent state of the industry report from the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), the snackfoods category as a whole – consisting of chips, nuts, popcorn, nutritional bars, dried fruit, and pretzels – has been outperforming the petrol and convenience average.
And salty snacks in particular are expected to continue to grow organically due to the omni-present snacking trend in Australia. According to PepsiCo Shopper Foundation Study 2017, some 60% of snacking occasions are now savoury, as opposed to 45% in 2013.
There is however a story within a story, and the health and wellness trend and demand for more premium products has seen a noticeable shift within the category. Popcorn and nuts are on the rise, as are chips made from vegetables other than potatoes, and more premium offerings.
Market leader, the Smith’s Snackfood Company, has enjoyed huge success with its premium Red Rock Deli range, and its other established brands such as Smith’s, Doritos, and Twisties. The company has also responded to the health and wellness trend with the Sunbites range of wholegrain products, which include: Grain Waves wholegrain chips which have 30% less fat than crinkle cut potato chips; popcorn made from real wholegrain corn kernels which are popped in hot air; and the star-shaped Funbites that are baked not fried.
Other leading salty snack companies include Snackbrands Australia – which as well as its CC’s, Thins, Cheezels, and Samboy brands – boasts the premium Kettle slow cooked range.
Market research company Ipsos says two thirds of Australians snack in-between meals, while Nestle Snackscape research from 2016 revealed that one in three snacks consumed by adults is eaten out of home. The desire of busy Australians to grab a snack while they are out and about getting on with their busy lives is then an inherent opportunity for convenience stores.
This opportunity is clearly reflected in the contents of the convenience store shopper’s basket. According to Brett Barclay, a director with Convenience Measures Australia, the total snacking category is represented in 18% of all baskets, while salty snacks is represented in 22% of those.
“Some 41% of shoppers who purchase salty snacks do so to ‘treat’ themselves,” Mr Barclay said.
“And 58% of shoppers who bought salty snacks purchased their usual brand/product.”
An indication of perhaps how much more potential the salty snack category in this country has yet to realise can be seen by the British experience. In the United Kingdom, the convenience channel represents 15.6% share of savoury snacks and continues to gain share, compared to just 5.6% in Australia (Euromonitor Savoury Snacks in the UK 2017; Savoury Snacks in Australia 2017).
In some British outlets, impulse categories are in multiple planogrammed locations throughout the store, whereas in Australia snacks are still predominantly located in the main aisles with minimal presence at checkout/front of store. (Source: IGD Retail Analysis).
The Smith’s Snackfood Company says that on-shelf availability continues to be an issue in the salty snacks category due to high velocity of products. It also says salty snacks plays the role of ‘basket driver’ in the convenience channel, so disruptive presence around the store is key.
“Opportunities to further accelerate salty snacks growth in the convenience channel include evolving how snacks and food-to-go are executed in store,” said a spokesperson for the company.
“Retailers can maximise salty growth by disrupting shoppers as much as possible outside of aisle, both pre store and in store.”
All stores have different space challenges and serve a different demographic dynamic but the importance of getting the basics right remain the same for everyone. In order to encourage time poor convenience shoppers to purchase salty snacks, the fixture needs to easy to shop, with clear segmentation of pack sizes, segments, and pricing. Point of sale material should be used to attract consumer attention and highlight promotions and new products.
As the category slowly evolves away from traditional salty potato chips, alerting customers to new products and innovations will become increasingly important. Ensuring salty snacks are front of mind for consumers at moment of purchase will facilitate incremental sales and encourage trial of new and different products.
Capitalising on the greater health awareness within salty snacks, brands such as Red Rock Deli have been bolstered by its newer range of sweet potato crisps as it seeks to construct savoury snacks from more virtuous ingredients.
Smaller companies such as Vege Chips have also carved out niches for themselves in the category. Its leading two products are the Vege Chips natural flavour and original blend in deli crisps.
Vege Chips sales and marketing manager Tim Lowe said: “Given the success of our original blend deli crisps we are launching a new product into the market in April which is a straight yellow sweet potato”.
“This will be a great addition to compliment the deli crisps original blend, as well as the deli crisps purple sweet potato we currently have in the market,” Mr Lowe said.
Vege Chips says it will also launch more lentil varieties later this year with the inclusion of a lentil twist multi-pack and a spicy lentil sriracha flavour.
The importance of ongoing innovation in the category is shown by Shopper Tracker data from last year which showed 57% of shoppers would like retailers to introduce new types/flavours/brands more often in salty snacks. Australians continue to crave new and exciting flavour and texture experiences, and indulgent treat products are also continuing to grow.
As the category evolves, ready-to-eat popcorn has been another big winner as it continues to shake off legacy associations of being a mostly unhealthy snack to accompany movies. Indeed, the AACS state of the industry report concludes that popcorn has instead emerged as a ‘permissible treat’.
“Dollar growth of 132% in 2016, while down slightly from the 150% recorded in 2015, reflects a trending bagged snack in both grocery and petrol and convenience,” the report said.
Cobs Fine Foods has been at the forefront of popcorn’s popularity surge in Australian convenience.
A Cobs Fine Foods spokesperson said: “The Cobs Popcorn range includes savoury, salty and sweet flavours – some of which are perfect for every day, some are for an indulgence”.
“People are also looking for ‘on the go’ snacking options that they can eat on the run, whether that be while in the car, or at work or school,” the spokesperson said.
Cobs Fine Foods says that food manufacturers need to cater to consumers seeking low sugar, gluten free, organic, or nut free snacks and that its popcorn offering suits many of these ‘free from’ categories.
“Consumers are constantly looking for convenient snacks, and more and more are looking for their snacks to be tasty, yet healthy,” the spokesperson said.
“Healthy snacks in general is a category that will grow, and this will continue to be a strong trend for 2018.”
Other popcorn brands and flavours that have also been making a contribution to popcorn’s strong growth are 7-Eleven’s Salted Caramel offering, and a number of new Kettle Popcorn options from Snackbrands.
Cobs Fine Foods says that convenience store operators need to present the snack category as a complete story.
“Nothing frustrates a customer more than not being able to find their favourite flavour from a particular brand,” the spokesperson said.
“Some retailers perhaps only stock one or two of our flavours, when it’s important to give customers choice, and this can only happen when the full range is presented.”
While sales of traditional salty snacks in convenience are already under pressure due to the rise of segments such as popcorn, regular promotional activities by major supermarkets are another challenge. The AACS says that, with consumers taking advantage of the high frequency of 50% chip discounts in grocery to ‘pantry stock’, there will be less people using the petrol and convenience channel for top-up shopping.
Nonetheless, according to Fatima Marquez, a research analyst at Euromonitor International, potato chips remained an important contributor to savoury snacks, making up 27% of value sales in 2017.
“Potato chips gradual declined in growth terms due to the growth of health focused savoury snacks such as nut, seeds and trail mixes, vegetable, pulse and bread chips and popcorn,” Ms Marquez said.
“That said, potato chips still experienced solid value growth of 6% in 2017 driven by premium positioned potato chips brands such as Red Rock Deli, Kettle, Windsor’s and Thomas Chipman.”
As the salty snack opportunity continues to expand and evolve, the use of promotions and deals to help increase basket spend on snacks become an ever more useful tool for convenience store operators. The most proven way of driving sales is by bundling salty snacks with a beverage, as the two are a natural fit with each other.
Similarly, bundling a salty snack with a food-to-go item can also be a basket driver as consumers may then be persuaded to purchase across categories. Possibilities may include offering a small bag of chips with a sandwich for a discounted price, or even combining a drink, a salty snack, and a sandwich in a ‘meal deal’.
While salty snacks may then be evolving and innovating to suit the health and wellness trend, the opportunity for savvy convenience stores to profit from this innovative category remains greater than ever.
* Convenience & Impulse Retailing magazine would like to thank Smith’s Snackfoods, Cobs Fine Foods, Vege Chips, Euromonitor International, and Convenience Measures Australia for supplying information for this article.
AT A GLANCE
- Some 41% of shoppers who purchase salty snacks do so to ‘treat’ themselves, while 58% of shoppers who buy salty snacks purchase their usual brand/product.
- Shopper Tracker data from shows 57% of shoppers would like retailers to introduce new types/flavours/brands more often in salty snacks.
- Sales of ready-to-eat popcorn have boomed as the segment has shaken off its former image as a mostly unhealthy snack to accompany movies and emerged as a ‘permissible treat’.
- Salty snacks plays the role of ‘basket driver’ in the convenience channel, so disruptive presence around the store is key.