Over the past twenty years
a seemingly irreversible trend towards a ‘snacking culture’ of food consumption
has been in evidence.

Snacking in its broadest
sense is increasing and has gathered pace over the past couple of years:

%
change since 1994

Snacking in home

+28

Snacking out

+18

Lunchboxes

+24

Light Meals

+60

The market is, we estimate,
worth £14 billion per annum – with ‘Light Meals’ accounting for £9
billion.

Time pressures, fragmentation
of meals, individuality, the availability of convenience foods have all contributed
to the increase.

The growth of snacking represents
a very real challenge to the food and drink industry – as snacking imposes a
new ‘set of rules’ on the market, different to conventional main meals.

Attached are a number of
charts that summarise FFP‘s insight into snacking.

FFP suggests that there
are a number of characteristics linking the most successful Snack Foods.

  • Understand the market
    There is not one ‘snacks’ market but several. The ‘cup of tea and biscuit’
    (‘Between meals snack’) is very different to the ‘sandwich and yoghurt’ market.
    The most buoyant of the markets is in ‘Light Meals’ (the ‘sandwich’ and yoghurt
    market). Different product attributes are required for success at each occasion.

There is no real evidence
for a blurring of the different snacking occasions. Each has its rituals, its
unwritten rules and challenges.

  • Increasingly the out
    of home market is being supplied by the major multiples with food and drink
    carried out of home – the ‘Lunchbox’ market. This in turn is putting pressure
    on the traditional out of home snacking outlets – CTN’s.
  • Key locations for snacking
    are in home, at school, in workplace and ‘outside’. Despite the interest in
    cafés, garages, cinemas etc., these represent a small proportion of
    snacking volume. The overwhelming majority of snack foods are sourced from
    the major grocery multiples – it is here that success or failure is achieved.

It is in the ‘Light Meals’
market that manufacturers have been particularly directing new product activity,
however our analysis of the market is that this is an occasion that ‘is not
specifically purchased for’ making it a difficult prize to win. The key savoury
products at Light Meals are:

Bread
Salad Vegetables
Cheese
Cold Meats
Eggs
Salty Snacks
Baked Beans
Soup

With the focus of the occasion
bread based. The challenge to manufacturers hoping for a share of this buoyant
market is to offer the value, flexibility, ‘always in stock’ role that bread
fulfils.

Complementing or replacing
bread is one possible route into the market.

Sauces, meat, fish (other
than canned), poultry, hot vegetables, desserts (other than tubs), potatoes
and even ready meals and other products that comprise a component of a meal
rather than the complete solution perform poorly. These categories tend to rely
on formal meals, with two or more individuals eating. The decline of formal
meals in favour of light, informal occasions represents a real challenge for
these markets. However, perhaps the greatest challenge to those attempting to
capitalise on the growth in Light Meals is that the key products at the occasion
tend to be high penetration ‘cupboard stock’ items rather than specific ‘occasion
led’ purchases, “use up” rather than buy for the occasion.

In home between meal snacks
increased significantly between 1974 (when FFP was launched) and the mid 1980’s.
Over this 10 years the market growth was in excess of 30%. During the mid 1980’s
to the mid 1990’s snacking stagnated. More recently the market has picked up
again.

Between meal snacks are
clearly driven by treat or indulgence factors – ‘food or meal value’ do not
seem to be important. Some of the other key characteristics of in-home snacking
include:

  • Sweet – along
    with Breakfast, in-home snacks are the only occasion that is primarily sweet.
    This underlines its role as an indulgence/treat driven occasion.

  • ‘Single Products’
    – typically just one food item is consumed at a snack (biscuit or salty
    snacks or fruit – not all three). This mitigates against any food stuff
    that is not ‘stand alone’ – like sausages or cream.

  • Drink Focused
    – over 90% of snacks feature drink, our interpretation of the occasion is
    that drink – typically tea or coffee – is the start point of a snack. Food
    is complementary and much of the movement of snack foods can be attributed
    to trends in drinks – cold drinks increasing and with it salty snacks –
    hot drinks declining and with it many of the staple sweet snacks.

  • Ritualised
    the media perception of 24 hour grazing is not correct. Snacking, like meals
    is ritualised. The prime times for consumption in home are mid morning –
    around 11 am and post 10 pm (‘bedtime’).

  • Cold – few snack
    occasions feature hot food, over 90% of food snacks are cold. Hot food tends
    to take the form of toast or products like instant soup or pot noodles using
    hot water (and the well established ritual of putting the kettle on for
    a hot drink at snacks perhaps a means of hot preparation offering further
    potential for new products.)

    Microwaving has a presence,
    albeit low. Despite the speed of food preparation in the microwave, the
    second involved represent a competitive disadvantage.

  • Convenient
    most successful snack foods are handheld ‘pack to mouth’, no tableware,
    no utensils, no preparation. The standard for a snack food is zero effort,
    anything short of this would constitute a product disadvantage.

  • ‘Visible’ – many
    of the key snack foods are literally visible, typically on a kitchen work
    surface, fruit in the fruit bowl, biscuits in the biscuit tin, bread in
    the bread bin. Just as in a retail outlet, visibility matters and triggers
    impulse consumption. Products ‘hidden away’ (in the freezer ….) are
    at a disadvantage.

Snacking, in one form or
another is here to stay. Learn the rules, develop and re-invent.