Cookies and crackers bide time

October 08, 2010

If cookies and crackers have been left off of shoppers’ lists to save money, as it certainly seems, it would be a second swat at the category.

If cookies and crackers have been left off of shoppers’ lists to save money, as it certainly seems, it would be a second swat at the category. The first is the rising trend to eat healthier – to pack the likes of yogurt, fruit or baby carrots in kids’ lunchboxes and adults’ briefcases instead of processed treats. 

To offset the household budget pinch and sustain relative market share, manufacturers have run deep and frequent temporary price reductions in the category lately, and retailers have marked down certain store brand selections, F3 has observed. To leverage the eating healthier trend, the makers of cookies and crackers have issued varieties that are gluten-free, or made with grains, or lower in sodium or fats. Some of these segments have been bright spots in an otherwise stagnant sales picture for this aisle.

For example, gluten-free cookies have burst onto the scene with four successive years of double-digit gains – up by 45.2%, 44.8%, 21.3% and most recently 34.4% to $17.7 million in the 52 weeks ended September 4, 2010, in U.S. food stores that generate at least $2 million annually (excluding supercenters), according to Nielsen LabelTrends data of prepackaged, UPC-coded products only. This was achieved on equivalized unit volume gains of similar percentages.

Another tiny cookie segment that’s growing is a ‘no salt or sodium’ variety, up 38.4% to $1.7 million in the latest running twelve-month period, reported Nielsen. 

These segments had practically no impact, however, on the $3.65 billion cookies category in food stores, which posted a 1.3% dollar sales rise in the latest 52 weeks on a 1.7% EUV climb, noted Nielsen. That was its most robust showing in four years; in the prior three years, dollar sales were up by 0.6% and 0.8% before reaching a plateau at 0.0% in the 52 weeks ended September 5, 2009 during the height of the recession. 

On the cracker side of the aisle, the gluten-free segment was similarly impressive – up by 92.0%, 61.8%, 103.3% and most recently 67.4% to $15.0 million in the latest 52 weeks ended September 4, 2010 in U.S. food stores, showed Nielsen data. 

Less dramatic but more significant, the ‘low salt or sodium’ crackers segment rose 7.4% to $66.9 million on a 4.4% EUV increase. Also, the far larger whole grain crackers segment reached $496.3 million on the strength of four straight yearly dollar sales gains of 9.7%, 7.1%, 8.0% and 2.5%, according to Nielsen data. Sugar-free crackers represent another important segment on the upswing, up three of the past four years, most recently an 8.4% advance to $66.5 million.

Looking at crackers by product form, the wafers/toast/breadsticks segment was the only gainer in the most recent 52 weeks, up 18.1% to $161.0 million on a 20.0% EUV increase, reported Nielsen.

Crackers overall nudged down by 0.2% to $3.12 billion in the latest full year, after three consecutive years of low single-digit gains. Both cookies and crackers were bought by more than nine out of ten U.S. households at least once in the 52 weeks ended June 26, 2010, according to Nielsen Homescan Consumer Facts.