Snack on

Salty snacks sales are on the rise and snacking events like the Super Bowl can help retailers improve other categories within the center store.

By Craig Levitt

Salty snack sales have in­­creased nearly 30% since 2004 and now account for about $20 billion in sales annually, ac­cording to Mintel, the Chi­cago-based research company. Industry ob­servers say one reason behind the strong sales is that pretzels, chips and popcorn are less costly for consumers compared to other snacking options such as fresh fruit and nutrition bars.

However, that isn’t to say that all of that snacking is unhealthy. Among the 6,000 new products that have made their way onto shelves over the past five years there have been a plethora of healthier snack foods such as natural and organic, low/no sodium, whole grain and baked items, according to Mintel’s research.

The nut category in particular is attracting consumers looking for better-for-you snacking options.

The Chicago-based Sym­ph­onyIRI Group reports that for the 52 weeks ended Oct. 3, dollar sales for snack nuts increased 8.4%, accounting for more than $2.2 billion in sales. Perhaps more impressively, unit sales increased 6.7%. Comparatively, potato chips dollar and unit sales were up 5.1% and 6.0% respectively while pretzel sales were only up 1.2% (dollar sales) and 0.6% (unit sales).

“We like to remind consumers that nuts are a healthier snack,” says Julie Nargang, director of marketing—national brands for Elgin, Ill.-based John B. Sanfilippo & Son, owner of the Fisher nut brand. “Fisher offers retailers off-shelf merchandiser displays to make nuts top of mind for consumers.”

Along with the off-shelf messaging, Fisher is launching a see-through package with more contemporary graphics. Nargang says consumers “love the new packaging be­cause they are able to see the freshness and quality of our products.” As an added benefit, she says the packaging is reusable and recyclable.

Packaging that pops

Packaging is playing a big role with The American Pop Corn Co. as well. The Sioux City Iowa-based company, makers of Jolly Time Pop Corn, recently introduced its Homemade flavor in a unique triangular-shaped popping bag, called the Insta-Bowl. Garry Smith, president of the American Pop Corn Co., says that unlike traditional popping bags, which open when they are tugged on the corners, the Insta-Bowl opens with the pull of a string and provides consumers with easier and cleaner access when eating popcorn out of the bag.

“We are really excited about this,” he says. “Its way too early to tell if the consumers have accepted the Insta-Bowl, but so far the trade loves it. I had a buyer tell me this was the most innovative thing he has seen in popcorn in the last 20 years.”

There is also innovation going on in the pretzel segment. Snyder’s of Hanover newest snacks—which have only 3-grams of fat or less per serving—Three Cheese Medley Flavored Nibblers and Braided Twists in Honey Wheat, MultiGrain and Pumpernickel and Onion will be available to retailers in January—just in time for Super Bowl parties.

“Both of these products also deliver on taste,” says C. Peter Carlucci, business development manager for Snyder’s of Hanover, Inc., based in Hanover, Pa. “Having made New Year’s resolutions, consumers will be looking for healthier alternatives for snacks that they can serve during the big game. Snyder’s of Hanover snacks provide a delicious solution.”

According to industry observers, retailers can use cross-promotions and other Super Bowl-related marketing op­portunities to execute a winning game plan throughout the center store.

“Supermarkets can add ex­cite­ment around the Super Bowl by creating in-store displays featuring many different snacking ideas,” says Carlucci. “It’s also a good time to hold cross-promotional sales that encourage consumers to purchase multiple items, like pretzels and dips, for example.”

Studies show that Super Bowl party planning often begins about 30 days prior to the actual event. Observers say that retailers should factor in the need to communicate with shoppers in advance to get the right products onto their shopping lists.

Snyder’s of Hanover has created many different POS displays and cross-promotional campaigns that are designed to help increase sales and repeat purchases around Super Bowl time. One is the “get N2 the game” promotion, an in-store promotion featuring savings from Snyder’s of Hanover brands, including Krunchers potato chips and Patrino’s tortilla chips.

Retailers can further maximize the opportunities around the Super Bowl by understanding which products their shoppers are looking for and making those products readily available. Mimi Dixon, senior group manager, integrated shopper marketing for the Campbell Soup Co., based in Camden, N.J., says research suggests that while “top ten” lists of Super Bowl Sunday foods include traditional standards such as chips and sandwiches, there are secondary items that retailers can pair with them to generate additional sales.

“Our Pace salsas and picantes, as an accompaniment to chips, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and Chunky Soups, as an accompaniment to sandwiches, are examples of Campbell’s products that complement those ‘top ten’ foods very well,” says Dixon.

“[Around Super Bowl] our power brands—Chunky, Pace and Pepperidge Farm—are heavily featured and merchandised in the form of lobby displays, endcaps, racks and more,” adds Dixon. “Because Campbell’s is an NFL sponsor we often partner with other NFL sponsors to develop scale merchandising and brand synergies. Super Bowl is a time period where it is important to break through the center of the store and get to the front and perimeter in a big way.”

The Super Bowl also provides party hosts with a chance to experiment with different snack dishes. For example, Doug Renfro, president of Fort Worth, Texas-based Renfro Foods, says retailers have merchandised Renfro’s fruit salsa with Triscuits and cream cheese to create a popular, yet simple, offering for guests.

“You’ll see retailers create a lot of interesting things with our product line, but mostly on an independent level,” says Renfro.  “To a large degree, because we are a small company, we leave most of the promotional plans up to our distributors.”

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