KP Snacks KeePing the Snacks innovation coming

KP Snacks, the UK’s second biggest snacks manufacturer, is a Great British success, with a long list of iconic brands including McCoy’s, Hula Hoops, Space Raiders, POM-BEAR, Butterkist, Tyrrell’s and popchips.

A look at the figures shows KP’s snacks are enjoyed by over 20 million UK households and the overall KP portfolio is currently worth £556.1m, with sales up +7.9% annually (Nielsen 26.1.19). KP is particularly strong in the convenience channel, which continues to thrive and is forecast to grow by +£7.2bn by 2023. To back all this up, KP are putting £27 million behind their brands in 2019, including TV, Social, Out of Home and Sampling.

Matt Collins, Trading Director at KP Snacks, spoke to Wholesale Manager: “My primary role,” says Matt, “is as the interface between our business and our customers and help our team put the customer at the heart of everything we do. I help our customers to thrive in the crisp, snack and nut category, and our colleagues in the business to understand how to serve the customer better.”

Matt Collins is passionate about the wholesale sector, having spent much of his career in wholesale and foodservice. He has been at KP for five years and before that at Premier Foods. He spends a considerable amount of time with the UK’s biggest wholesalers, including Bestway and Bidfood.

And when talking about Brexit, Matt is clear about the implications: “For us, it’s business as usual. There’s a lot of potential change, but we’re prepared and resolved about what it might mean. We start in a robust place as a UK food manufacturer, with 95% of our products made in the UK. We’re really focused and have contingency plans in place. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and play our part to help create certainty.”

KP Snacks’ roots go back to the nineteenth century with a food company called Kenyon Produce, hence KP, who began making crisps in the 1940s. Today KP Snacks has the backing of a significant European player, Intersnack Group, giving it the scale of an international business while maintaining its roots firmly in Britain.

KP Snacks employs over 2,000 staff in the UK across eight manufacturing sites and the Slough HQ. Matt says people pull his leg about Slough being where The Office’s David Brent worked. But unlike Mr Brent, KP Snacks are a major success story, growing at twice the rate of the overall snack market. Matt Collins attributes this to the strength of its range, covering all consumer needs from on-the-go snacking to Big Night In.

With so much talk about healthy living in the trade and consumer media, Matt Collins says KP Snacks and the Crisps, Snacks and Nuts category as a whole are still seeing significant growth, driven by what he calls “Better for You” snacking. Flavour is still the number one purchase driver and is integral to KP’s NPD programme.

Backed by a £4m campaign, the latest launch, McCoy’s Muchos is KP Snacks’ biggest ever NPD launch and taps into the growing popularity of Mexican food, now the UK’s fourth largest takeaway cuisine. Muchos also provides a muchneeded dose of innovation into the tortilla market.

For all the focus on flavour, Matt takes pains to emphasise that KP are not ignoring the healthy living imperative: “Snacks are coming under increasing scrutiny from health experts and the Government. Our portfolio offers a range of choices to meet our consumers’ varied needs, at all ages.”

Matt quotes an array of figures to underline KP’s stance on health. As part of KP’s ‘Taste for Good’ programme, they have reduced the salt content of a number of their core products including Wheat Crunchies, Discos and McCoy’s Flavours by up to 55% since 2005, and done so, Matt says, without compromising on taste.

On top of this, KP do not use hydrogenated vegetable oil in any products, and all their fried snacks are cooked in sunflower oil. Along with cutting salt content, they have also reduced their saturated fat by 80% across the core brands since 2005. Their existing products are 83% free from artificial flavours, 92% free from added flavour enhancers, 98% free from artificial sweeteners and 100% free from artificial colours.

Portion control is another important factor, says Matt. KP now have 37 products with under 100cals per pack, from brands including POMBEAR, Skips, popchips and Hula Hoops, as well as gluten-free products and nuts, and products suitable for vegans. On top of this they have pledged to make 50% more of their products under 100cals per pack by 2025.

Matt is also keen to talk up the healthy side of crisps, snacks and nuts compared with treats like chocolate: “Three quarters (78%) of consumers recognise that nuts provide a positive source of energy and a quarter (24%) of shoppers look to increase protein in their diet. KP Nuts on-the-go packs, including two energy mixes, tap into this key trend.”

Wholesalers driving snacking The wholesale sector plays a key role in driving the UK snacks market, says Matt Collins: “Wholesale is going through a time of unprecedented change, with P&H and Conviviality now history and Landmark and Today’s joining forces as Unitas. Consolidation was inevitable, so Unitas emerging was good, offering better marketing and digital communication. We’re keen to partner with them and continue to work closely.

“People say all this change amounts to major disruption, but for us it’s the new norm. We embrace it as a challenge – we’re here to do business and help people win. Our responsibility is to wholesalers and their customers, helping them generate demand, create value and drive volume, supporting them in such areas as ranging and space management.”

KP Snacks work closely with wholesalers on merchandising and managing the product flow in depots, but with a major difference in their approach:

“We believe that for best results depots’ crisps, snacks and nuts layouts should be based on need state, shopping mission and occasion, not brand blocked by manufacturer. We encourage our customers to carry out trials based on this principle and have seen staggering results. But it’s not just about us, if we grow the category everyone wins. Crisps, snacks and nuts is the best performing impulse category, the one to drive.”

This commitment is at the heart of KP Snacks’ customer charter: “We respect the competition. If we do the right thing, we’ll all thrive. Our values and behaviours are our DNA.

It’s really key – we’re the challengers in the market and must fulfil our commitments. We have 98% category penetration, but we must drive purchase frequency higher. As a supplier we’re easy to do business with: we listen to customers and take the time to understand their strategies so we can fuse theirs and ours into a ‘win win’ and also win with consumers.”

KP Snacks also support wholesalers with trade days and extensive samplings in depots, including for the new McCoy’s Muchos: “We want everyone to taste it and see it for themselves.”

For the convenience retailers, KP Snacks’ approach is about creating excitement and theatre instore, linking adjacent categories and making the most of affinities. KP Snacks’ biggest link with these outlets is their SnacKPartners initiative, a series of forums for symbol retailers and true independents. Matt explains:

“Ultimately the retailers know their shops best. We talk to them early on, check flavours, prices and case sizes and look at ‘the last mile.’”

As a leading snacks supplier to the convenience sector, van sales were an integral part of KP’s business when they were part of United Biscuits, but that side of the operation was sold to P&H when UB was broken up. Matt brings the story up to date: “Bestway Direct, which emerged after P&H went into administration, is a good route to market for us, providing an invaluable service.”

Staying with van sales, after the recent Tyrrells acquisition, KP Snacks now also have a regional van business in Herefordshire, serving customers in a 70-mile radius.

Completing the communication mix, KP have embraced today’s ‘tech,’ supporting and advising their customer partners on their digital platforms:

“We have a fully integrated ecommerce strategy. We start by focusing on fixing the basics: getting the hero images right, pack sizes, descriptors, taxonomy and facets. We then collaborate with our Trading Partners to maximise their assets and platforms to unlock the sales potential. It’s all about detail.”

With the UK food to go market expected to grow +46% by 2022, Matt Collins says KP Snacks are in a strong position to help wholesalers capture the opportunity:

“Our overall strategy will continue to be insight led and brand passion driven, supporting and driving category growth in the bagged snacks market through our four-pillar plan. This starts with ‘More from Core,’ focusing on the best sellers, what customers want, demand generation and value creation. Next is sustainable NPD, driving excitement, harnessing trends, stimulating the category and delivering incremental sales. After that comes ‘Activate and Execute’ – demand generation through maximising events, occasions, missions and promotions, and finally Category Management – from data to insight, and insight to action.”