Independent market analyst Datamonitor's new report, Hand Held Savoury Snacks, (published 05/12/01) finds that the continued snacking trend has resulted in innovative new snacks stealing the limelight from the traditional favourites such as chocolate and crisps. In response to consumers' desire for more interesting snacks, sandwiches have been given a facelift while other snack options have been broadened; consumers can buy anything from a Scotch egg bar to a single gherkin-in-a-can.
 
Sandwiches continue to dominate

Datamonitor examined new product launches across Europe and the US of retail hand-held snacks in the following sectors: filled bread, pastry wrapped, unwrapped, pizza snacks and snack kits. As many as 56.9% of new hand-held snack launches over the past 18 months have been in the filled bread segment. This significant level of innovation has been driven by filled breads' versatility for flavour and style development.

Wraps, ciabattas, pittas and other bread varieties have increasingly become the new 'sandwich' over recent years. Traditional sliced bread is making way for more exciting breads in order to raise the profile of the sandwich and appeal to consumers' increasingly adventurous tastes.  Many of these new breads are stronger than sliced bread and allow for more filling and the combination of unusual ingredients. For example, in the UK, Marks & Spencer launched in May 2001 an Indian naan bread sandwich containing a chicken jalfrezi filling. Also in May 2001, Sodebo launched Gourmanpains in France - a range of pre-packed tortilla wrap sandwiches.

There has also been strong innovation in more substantial 'big eat' filled bread products for heartier appetites. Such products include deep fill sandwiches and thick-cut sandwiches, such as UK retailer Sainsbury's 'The Big One', which claims to be "The UK's biggest pre-packed supermarket sandwich". Many big eat innovations contain bacon, egg, sausage or other meats, and some have specific lunch themes such as Toft Foods' 'Café New York' style sandwiches launched in the UK in June 2001. Sandwich innovation has been most intense in the UK where sandwiches have, for many years now, been a popular lunchtime product. 

Size does matter 

Pastry wrapped snacks witnessed the second greatest level of innovation, according to Datamonitor's research. Developing slice versions of pies and pastries featured prominently in recently tracked launches as manufacturers seek to reformulate their pastries into more portable-friendly versions. Similarly, pizza snacks are offering consumers a traditional favourite in a smaller format. A significant emerging trend of recent pizza snack innovation has been the introduction of low fat and healthier versions. This follows health innovation developments in the prepared meal pizza market. These pizza snacks appeal both to parents concerned about children's health and weight conscious adults.

Unwrapped snacks are a relatively new segment of hand-held snacks with innovation driven by  technology improvements, making it possible to package and sell these types of products as hand-held snacks. By removing the bread or pastry 'wrapping', manufacturers are able to offer the most indulgent part of a filled bread or wrapped pastry snack, i.e. the 'filling', as a self-contained snack. Almost all recent innovation has focused on development of cheese and meat snacks in individually packaged bar formats. Many child positioned products have been marketed on the Trojan horse bandwagon of 'better for you than confectionery' alternatives.

Legitimate reasons to play with your food

Snack kits centred around two types: meal kits for children, such as Lunchables, and dipping products. Interactivity between the product and the consumer has been central to the success of meal kits. For example, the element of fun has been central to the popularity of the lunchtime dipping product, especially amongst children. For a child, the idea of dipping food and mixing flavours is exciting and far removed from a simple home-made sandwich or piece of fruit.  As manufacturers become increasingly confident about the success of this type of product, flavour innovation will follow. Cheese is currently the most popular dipping product and more exotic flavour innovation has clearly targeted adults.

As certain snacking occasions become more routine and less impulse driven, such as substituting for missed breakfasts on the way to work, consumers will become less inclined to forego their health needs by resorting to indulgent options on a regular basis. Hence more routine snacking moments present scope for hand-held snacks that can supply consumers with a good nutritional profile, possibly containing a complement of vitamins and minerals. 

"Consumers have always been happy to grab a chocolate bar or bag of crisps when they're in a hurry, but they are increasingly looking for options beyond this, which has prompted the high levels of innovation in the savoury snacks market. Innovation is without doubt the key to increasing manufacturers' share of hand-held snacking. However, consumers are increasingly demanding additional benefits, such as health and sensory experience, beyond fulfilling basic hunger and convenience needs. By offering these extra benefits manufacturers will be able to expand the appeal of hand-held snacks to a broader consumer base and target a greater number of occasions over competing meal solutions," comments Dominik Nosalik, Datamonitor consumer markets analyst and author of the report.