Salty snacks satisfy in many ways

March 21, 2011

New appeals in salty snacks keep shoppers buying, as better-for-you products take hold.

Salty snack eaters craving change have much innovation to celebrate in the salty snack aisle. 

First, healthier varieties are gaining shelf space, as consumers respond favorably to baked, lower-fat, lower-sodium, organic and gluten-free products. Manufacturers are working hard to become a credible part of a balanced, better-for-you eating trend that is sweeping the nation. Nielsen data within this story details just how successful organic and salt-claim snacks are, for example. 

Second, new product flavors, colors, packages and cooking processes give people more choice than ever in tastes, textures, sensory appeal and the ability to curb caloric intake. At F3, we feel these changes are timely to help families avoid food boredom with so much more eating at home in this economy.  

The innovations help stimulate a category that knows people do like classic chips, pretzels, popcorn and nuts – but they might like them better in new combinations and presentations. Pretzels dipped in peanut butter, for example, are more than a taste treat – they’re a high-protein, low-saturated fat snack that could help replace a meal.   If they fill that dietary role, consumers might see such snacks as more necessary and less expendable, we believe.

Such innovations have likely contributed to salty snacks sailing through the recession. The category’s dollar sales rose during each of the past four years, and culminated in a 1.7% rise to $10.91 billion in U.S. food stores (each $2 million and over in annual sales), excluding supercenters, in the 52 weeks ended February 19, 2011, reports Nielsen. This data is for prepackaged, UPC-coded products only.  In the three previous years, total salty snacks rose by 3.3%, 7.1% and 5.5%.

The top two segments account for nearly half of salty snacks dollar volume. The potato chips segment has set a three-year stretch of successive gains with a 3.2% increase to $3.21 billion during the latest 52 weeks. However, the tortilla chips segment faltered in this latest period. Its dollar sales slid by 2.5% to $2.05 billion, ending a three-year run of gains.

By comparison, pretzels have a four-year stretch of gains intact, posting a 4.9% dollar sales increase to $733.6 million in the latest 52 weeks, notes Nielsen.

Meanwhile, the statistical evidence in favor of better-for-you claims on salty snacks is compelling, according to Nielsen LabelTrends data for U.S. food stores (each $2 million and over in annual sales), excluding supercenters, in the 52 weeks ended February 19, 2011. 

Total salty snacks with organic claims are on a four-year run of advances – up by 11.1%, 8.0%, 5.5% and in the latest 52 weeks up by 3.7% to $196.3 million. Equivalized unit volume performance is also steady, though not quite as strong, up by 7.8%, 2.2%, 1.5% and most recently up by 2.4%, LabelTrends data show.

Even more impressive, salty snacks with sodium claims are on a double-digit four-year stretch of gains – up by 21.0%, 13.3%, 16.3% and in the latest 52 weeks up by 18.4% to $265.5 million. Equivalized unit volume performance correlates well with gains of 11.2%, 4.5%, 12.1% and 17.7%, notes LabelTrends.