British consumers are spending more on high quality snacks and drinks, such as McCoy's Specials, Walkers Sensations and Innocent drinks.

According to a new report from independent market analyst Datamonitor, a total of £1bn (US$1.8bn) was spent in 2004 on high quality snacks and drinks, and this trend is expected to continue well into the future.

"Rising levels of stress and consequently the need to unwind drive high quality snacking," said Daniel Bone, consumer market analyst at Datamonitor and author of the report. Self-indulgence is a common way of combating the effects of stress and boredom. Datamonitor forecasts that consumers' expenditure  will increase by 22% to £1.2bn in 2009. For manufacturers looking to maximise the self-treat opportunity, the timing is right.

"Manufacturers can take advantage of this by positioning their products as rewards rather than simply as products that provide functional and tangible benefits," said Bone.

Premiumisation goes mainstream

Premium snacks and drinks are no longer reserved for special occasions, but are instead increasingly everyday occurrences.

"Consumers are trading up, fuelled by rising aspirations stemming from the 'democratisation of luxury'," said Bone.

Emotive needs are an important influencer here. As many as 60% of UK consumers reported that they had "enjoyed small indulgences to escape the pressures of everyday life" more frequently in 2004 than 2003. Food and drink consumption is an important facilitator in this. Over 50% of consumers agreed with the statement: "Higher quality snacks are more emotionally comforting than standard offerings."

A bag of opportunities

Despite this 'everyday-ing' of premium consumption there are particular occasions and locations that remain important. Firstly, time of day.  Premium snacks are much more likely to be consumed in the evening.

Entertaining at-home, special occasions when staying in, holidaying, celebrating, eating or drinking at a cafe or when consuming in a social setting are all instances when consumers are more likely to choose a higher quality snack or beverage product.