In 2002, the UK accounted for some 51% of total value sales of savoury snacks, way ahead of the German market, which stands in second place with an 18% share followed by France (14%), Spain (9%), and Italy (8%).

In comparison to snack consumption in the UK, snacking in Europe remains very low. Whereas 86% of the British eat crisps or savoury snacks, less than half of Italians (46%) do so.

Despite high consumption levels, the UK savoury snacks market has yet to reach saturation point. This will ensure further growth in the short to medium term.

“Snacking is a well-established habit, with four out of ten British adults admitting to do so. Clearly the products have satisfied the need for a quick way to stave off hunger and sales will continue to be driven by new product development and massive marketing budgets,” said Anne Bourgeois, European Consumer Goods Consultant for Mintel.

Snacking – a national pastime

The tendency to eat between meals is increasing as consumers’ lifestyles become ever more diverse. The UK snacks market is currently being driven forward by lifestyle trends, including the increasing popularity of ‘eating-on-the-go’, the rise in at-home entertainment, which has encouraged the sharing of snacks, and the growing spending of children and teenagers, who constitute a prime market.

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By GlobalData

British snackers are munching their way through record amounts of potato crisps and savoury snacks. The UK market was estimated to be worth €4bn by the end of 2002 and is almost three times bigger than the second biggest European market, Germany.

While British adults spend on average €69 on savoury snacks per year, the French spend just over €19 and the Italians as little as €11 a year.

Between 1997 and 2002, UK sales of savoury snacks grew by 18%. Growth, however, has latterly been slow, held back by heavy discounting in the multiples and by a decline in impulse sales in 2001 and again in 2002. A somewhat negative market factor has also been competition from other snacks.

“A key factor affecting the savoury snacks market is that traditional styles of products are increasingly coming under pressure from ‘alternative’ snacks,” said Bourgeois.

“For example, there is now a great deal of crossover between cookies and snacks, between confectionery brands and snacks, as well as completely new types of snack- oriented product such as pouch-packed yoghurt,” she continued.

The Italian and Spanish markets showed impressive growth over the same period with market growth standing at 57% and 58% respectively. With the increasing urbanisation of Spanish society and the likelihood of both partners within the household going out to work, meals are inevitably being consumed outside the home. The combination of increased personal disposable income and less time for food preparation favours an increasing trend to eat snacks between meals.

The British are more likely to eat between-meal snacks than their European counterparts. Over 40% of the adult population admit they often eat between meals and keep eating snacks. Germans are keen snackers too with 36% of them eating between meals. In France and Italy, only a quarter of the population have developed this habit.

Snacking is overwhelmingly a habit of young consumers, particularly the under 20s with over 64% of them snacking between meals. Older consumers still maintain traditional eating patterns and have been reluctant to adopt the snacking habit. Only a quarter of those aged over 55 eat between meals.

Crisps remain firm British favourite

Potato crisps remain UK’s favourite savoury snack and accounted for 47% of the total savoury snacks market in 2002. Some 86% of the adult population buy them, compared to 66% in Spain, 60% in France, down to 44% in Germany and 40% in Italy. In France, other savoury snacks, such as Tuc and Ritz, are actually more popular than potato crisps with almost three-quarters of the adult population buying them. While the French are avid consumers of savoury snacks, biscuits and nuts with a drink before a meal, the consumption of savoury snacks and crisps between meals have not yet become widely accepted.

The British are also more likely than their European counterparts to buy crisps more frequently. While over a third of the British population does so once a week, the majority of Germans (75%) buy them only 2 or 3 times a month.

Room for expansion

The British may be among the most ardent snackers in Europe and form by far the largest market, but they still lag considerably behind the US and Mintel anticipates the savoury snacks market to rise by 12% in the next four years.

“Constant new product development will remain crucial to maintain the interest of young consumers. Savoury snacks in particular lend themselves to the introduction of new varieties in terms of shape, taste, flavour, texture and packaging and this trend will help to drive the market over the coming years” concluded Bourgeois.

Strongest market expansion is expected to come from France, Italy and Spain where Mintel forecasts market growth of 37%, 33% and 22% respectively over the next four years.