As Poland's economy develops and consumers embrace Western European eating habits, snacking appears to be on the increase. Francisco Redruello of Euromonitor International looks at the changing face of the Polish snacks market and current sales patterns across the different categories.

As has been seen in other developing Eastern European markets, snacking is becoming increasingly popular in Poland, according to Euromonitor International's latest research. Euromonitor International attributes the growing snacking trend to economic growth and modernisation, as well as the progressive adoption of Western consumer patterns, particularly within large cities.

Snack products in Poland comprise items such as ice cream, chips/crisps, bread sticks, chocolate bars, snack bars and fruit (in particular apples and grapes).

Chips and crisps are the most important category in value terms, with retail sales reaching an estimated US$630m in 2005, according to Euromonitor International data. Chocolate bars are also an important category, with sales worth US$294m in 2005, up by 18% on the previous year. Sales of snack bars still remain close to negligible, at around US$1m in 2005, but consumption is expanding rapidly among the middle and upper classes in urban areas.

Since 1998, sales of crisps and chips have benefited from a trend towards fast-paced lifestyles. A 90g bag of Lay's crisps retails for around PLN2.69 (US$0.86), while a 135g bag of Paluszki 135g bread sticks costs around PLN1.15. However, growth has recently been constrained by increasing health awareness amongst Polish consumers.

Breakfast bars, often viewed as a healthier option, account for most sales of snack bars, followed by sesame seed snacks. Sesame seed snacks, which are made from sesame seeds and glucose syrup, have been present in Poland for decades, although their sales have never reached a significant level. A Corny 25g snack bar costs around PLN0.99 in most Polish outlets.

Chocolate bars are very popular with Polish consumers as they are widely available in a variety of independent food stores, supermarkets and hypermarkets, with a wide range of brands in every outlet.  Prices are generally low and affordable to a large proportion of the population. Locally manufactured countline brand Prince Polo retails for around PLN0.74 (40g pack size), similar to Masterfoods' Snickers, which retails for around PLN0.94 (57g size). Milka's 100g chocolate tablet pack is sold in supermarkets for around PLN2.44.

Growth rates in major snack categories have increased sharply in Poland over the past year or so, according to Euromonitor International's research. While ice cream had shown a decline in 2003/2004, the category grew by around 25% in value terms in 2004/2005. Snack bar sales, albeit from a low base, grew by over 45% in 2004/2005, while chips and crisps sales rose by around 16% in 2004/2005, having shown growth in low single-digits in both 2002/2003 and 2003/2004.

Snacking on the go is becoming more common in Poland, particularly on the way to work. Polish consumers are increasingly buying sweet pastries and cakes in independent bakeries and small supermarkets, or countlines in street kiosks. Alternatively, they might buy snacks immediately after work on their way home.

However, research from Euromonitor International has identified that the Polish are not 'social snackers', rarely snacking in bars and restaurants. It is more common among Polish consumers to go home, have dinner and then go to a club or a bar.

Poles tend to snack at home, particularly during weekends and while watching television or during social occasions with friends and family. Shopping for these occasions is usually planned and therefore generally carried out in small and medium-sized supermarkets, hypermarkets and local bakeries.

In terms of gender segmentation, Polish women tend to snack more often than men. Furthermore, Polish housewives decide which brands to buy when they go to supermarkets or independent stores for their daily/weekly shopping, and hence play an important role in deciding which snacks are to be purchased for the entire family.

A notable emerging trend is the increasing popularity of hot soup consumed as a snack, particularly during working hours. Knorr instant soup is a key brand benefiting from this trend. The product comes in a single-serving sachet, in powdered form, to which hot water is added.

Snack sales through kiosks in railway stations have also grown over recent years, according to Euromonitor's research. These outlets have a licence to stay open 24 hours a day, offering convenience to busy travellers. Small-sized supermarkets situated close to university campuses are also emerging as important outlets for snack brands, with these outlets proving popular among Polish students, who visit them between classes to buy their snacks.

The purchasing of snacks in large-sized supermarkets and hypermarkets, on the other hand, takes place mainly in urban areas, and is usually planned rather than being on impulse. A notable development is the expansion of chocolate-themed areas within department stores and hypermarkets, mainly featuring premium chocolate confectionery which may be purchased for later consumption as a snack at home.

Impulse Food & Drink Channels in Poland