This September’s return to school will be like no other, with Covid-19 causing a great amount of uncertainty about what school will look like for students.

With the coronavirus pandemic still unfolding across the UK, wholesalers and convenience retailers are playing a vital role in everyday life, managing unprecedented levels of shopper demand.

The big weekly shop is on the increase with shoppers, now more than ever, driven to local convenience stores for top up missions. Top up missions are a key driver of convenience channel, accounting for 31% of all shopper missions (HIM).

Bagged snacks remain a vital driver of growth within convenience, especially at lunchtime, with two in five kids’ lunchboxes containing a bagged snack (Kantar).

With 30% of lunchbox occasions being consumed by children (KWP), parents are also more conscious than ever of the quality of the snacks they are purchasing. Healthy snacking within convenience has grown +13% in the latest 52wks, adding an incremental £1.9m to the CSN category (Nielsen).

Young family shoppers account for 25% of the on-the-go shopper base (HIM) and 15% of households are currently avoiding gluten and wheat (Mintel). POM-BEAR, from KP. contains fewer than 100 calories per pack, with 5.7m households consuming the brand every year (Kantar).

Hula Hoops Puft is another popular permissible snack option for those 29% of CSN consumers who are looking for healthier snacks (Mintel). Since the launch of Puft, the Hula Hoops brand saw a rise in RSV by +11%, clearly stating the demand for healthier options (Nielsen).

“PMPs and singles are particularly important in top up missions,” says Matt Collins, Trading Director at KP Snacks. 33% of shoppers believe that PMPs are cheaper than non-PMP products, and 57% want to see PMPs on crisps, nuts and snacks (HIM). PMPs are also popular with retailers, with 83% saying that PMPs sell faster than non-PMPs and 82% stocking them to stay competitive (Mintel).

The Hula Hoops Big Hoops range, a lunchtime favourite, grew +25.4% YoY to 45.6m and £1 PMP Hula Hoops BBQ is the no. 1 selling £1 PMP in the Convenience channel (Nielsen).

Building on the classic Flame Grilled Steak flavour, Fiery Steak is the latest edition to the McCoy’s PMP portfolio. With this latest edition, the McCoy’s PMP portfolio is currently worth £11m RSV, and is growing +36% in value YOY (Nielsen).

Amy Burgess, Senior Trade Communications Manager at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), comments: “We know that health is a top priority for parents when it comes to making drinks choices for their children. In particular, there is an increasing shift towards more natural products, with 70% of parents preferring products that do not contain artificial ingredients.”

To tap into this demand ahead of children returning to school this autumn, CCEP has reformulated the No Added Sugar Capri-Sun range to include Stevia, a plant-based sweetener in combination with natural fruit sugars. This means that the entire Capri-Sun portfolio now contains nothing artificial and only ingredients from natural sources.

This will be supported by new packaging that clearly highlights the brand’s ‘Nothing Artificial’ credentials, as well as a £6million marketing campaign, which will include television advertising, social media content and in-store materials to help retailers maximise sales.

Capri-Sun is currently worth more than £62million, and is the no.1 branded kids drink in GB (Nielsen).

“Our research has shown that shoppers are confused at point of purchase and are concerned about the sugar content and artificial ingredients in kids drinks,” adds Burgess. “Capri-Sun’s move to nothing artificial will help simplify the shopping experience whilst still delivering the same great fruity taste that families love and that has become synonymous with Capri-Sun, the number one kids’ drinks brand in GB.”

Capri-Sun’s 200ml pouches come in multipacks of four and eight and are available in Orange and Blackcurrant for Capri Sun and Orange and Apple & Blackcurrant for Capri-Sun No Added Sugar.

As families across the country start taking steps back into their usual routines, and schools plan for children to return, meat free brand Quorn will be back on TV with a new advert aimed at making it easier than ever for families to serve delicious, convenient and sustainable meat free meals.

The advert forms part of the brand’s trail blazing “Step in the Right Direction” campaign, which will benefit from a £5 million investment to the end of 2020, and highlights how Quorn is making it easier for people to make sustainable food choices.

“We’ll be back on TV from 27 August and throughout September focussing on one of our best-selling frozen products, Quorn Crispy Nuggets. As children return to school and busy family life resumes, the advert highlights just how easy Quorn makes it for families to enjoy delicious family favourite meals that are healthy for them, their families, and our planet,” says Phil Watson, Commercial Director at Quorn Foods UK. More than 11.9 million households are buying into meat free (Kantar).

As a £202 million brand (IRI & Kantar), bringing new shoppers into the category all the time, Quorn can help retailers meet the needs of the growing number of families turning to sustainable, meat free options as the centrepiece for evening meals.

“We’re advising retailers to stock everyday frozen favourites, such as Quorn Crispy Nuggets which has achieved ‘’Netmums Recommends’’ status, to make the move to meat free really simple and provide shoppers with great-tasting meat free options for the whole family,” adds Watson.

Quorn Crispy Nuggets continue to be one of the brand’s best sellers, worth almost £14m and growing +48.7% YoY (IRI & Kantar).

The TV campaign will be supported by a partnership with Netmums that will be recruiting families across the UK to the “Step in the Right Direction Squad” to inspire them to reduce their carbon footprint.

The partnership follows research from Netmums that revealed 90% of parents said the environment is a key consideration in everyday life and 75% of parents said they wish brands and retailers would make it easier to purchase sustainably and ethically.

Quorn has also launched a series of ‘How To’ family recipe videos hosted on www.quorn.co.uk and the brand’s social media channels to inspire families with tasty and easy to prepare meat free dishes.

“Our range of family favourites, including Quorn Crispy Nuggets meet the needs of those consumers who are becoming increasingly mindful of the need for more sustainable diets, with 60% aware that reduced meat consumption is beneficial for the environment,” concludes Watson.

Jon Wood, commercial director of Calbee UK, comments: “Consumer needs, behaviour and lifestyles have undoubtedly changed in recent months as a result of Covid-19 but healthy eating has remained a priority throughout. With children’s routines disrupted and eating habits affected, parents are seeking healthier snacking alternatives to provide at lunchtime and throughout the day. With children snacking at home more often than usual, it’s been crucial for many parents to introduce snacks that are appealing yet healthy and substantial. Many children also depend on routine and consistency so it’s important that parents maintain healthy eating habits when schools return.”

Better for you is growing significantly faster than the total category at +7.9 per cent (total 3.4 per cent). Positive health (products made from a healthy base) is the largest segment in better for you and enjoys strong growth.

Yushoi’s oven-baked pea snaps are a solution for parents seeking healthy alternatives to include in lunchboxes. Suitable for all ages and demographics, the snacks are a source of protein, high in fibre with 90 calories or less per serving – an alternative to traditional potato-based snacks. Made from 68% green pea, the complete range is vegetarian friendly with all flavours (except Sour Cream & Chive) suitable for vegans. The gluten-free snacks have all green and amber GDA’s and are available in single 21g bags and 6 x 21g multipacks, supporting the impulse convenience market. The range of baked pea snacks are available in a variety of flavours including Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar, Sweet Chilli with Lemon, Lightly Sea Salted and Sour Cream & Chive.

“As part of our ongoing review of the crisps and snacks market, and as a result of our ongoing investment in our Deeside snacks manufacturing site, we identified a gap in the market,” adds Wood. “Snacks tend to jump from the baby aisle with few products suitable for two to nine-year-olds. There is a growing trend towards healthier snacks aided by the government guidelines regarding childhood obesity. We identified an opportunity for children’s snacks which have all green and amber GDAs and are lower in salt, calories and fat which is often common in the category. Now more than ever, parents will be seeking healthy snacking alternatives for their children to enjoy at school.”

In order to capitalise on this opportunity, Calbee has entered into license agreements with Viacom/Nickelodeon to develop a range of Paw Patrol oven-baked pea snaps. The gluten-free snacks contain all green and amber GDAs, are lower in calories, fat and saturates than standard potato crisps and are vegetarian friendly. The pea snaps are available in 6x15g multipacks and 19g single bags and are the ideal bridge from the baby aisle into the snacking aisle. The multipacks contain two child-friendly flavours, pizza and cheese, while the single bags are available in cheese. The 15g bags have 65 calories per pack, while the larger 19g bags have 82 calories. As one of the largest children’s franchises in the UK, Paw Patrol has huge appeal with kids aged two to five. The bold and colourful packaging showcases the much-loved characters from the programme.

Calbee has also partnered with Universal Studios to launch new Trolls World Tour products in conjunction with the ‘at home’ release of the film. The oven-baked crunchy chickpea sticks are available in two child-friendly flavours, named after the characters in the film – ‘Barb BQ Beef Rock Strings’ and ‘Poppy’s Ketchup Pop Strings’. Available in 6x17g multipacks, the gluten-free baked snaps have less than 72 calories per pack with green and amber GDAs. Aimed at five to nine-year-olds, the vegetarian and vegan friendly products are lower in fat and saturates than standard potato crisps and are already on sale in the grocery market. A key challenge for parents who are seeking healthier snacks for children, instead of the traditional choice, is rejection. Licensing with popular and contemporary characters helps minimise this risk.

“Both Trolls and Paw Patrol have launched at a great time with many children returning to school after the summer and normality being resumed,” says Wood. “The tasty treats can be enjoyed at interval and/or lunchtime without parents being concerned about red GDAs. Trolls are also vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free whilst Paw Patrol are vegetarian and gluten-free.”

In addition to Trolls and Paw Patrol packs, Calbee recently launched Minions 14 x 18g multipacks. The new Crinkle Cut multipacks contain 14 mini snack bags in three child-friendly flavours; Sea Salted (6 bags), Cheese & Onion (4 bags) and Sea Salt & Vinegar (4 bags). The gluten-free snacks contain less than 100 calories and are vegetarian friendly with flavours Sea Salted and Sea Salted & Vinegar suitable for vegans. Aimed at families, the bold and colourful packaging displays loveable characters Bob, Kevin and Stuart from the Minions and Despicable Me films.

Jeremy Gilboy, Founder, St Pierre Groupe, comments: “Retailers looking to capitalise on the back to school occasion should look to stock convenient, versatile and nutritious lunchbox items, such as bread and bakery, as they will appeal to parents making packed lunches for their children. In addition, retailers can tap into consumer trends, such as minimising food waste and global flavours, by stocking brands like Baker Street and St Pierre.”

More than ever, consumers are actively seeking out longer life bakery products and brands, such as Baker Street, as they help reduce the frequency of shopping trips and allow them to have the food they want when they want it.

Packed to be fresher for longer, Baker Street guarantees a minimum life of 35 days from delivery to depot to help ensure on-shelf availability and reduce the risk of wastage. Consumers are looking for food items that have a generous shelf-life, and bring comfort, familiarity, convenience and versatility – all benefits that wrapped bread offers.

Baker Street’s core range of wrapped bread has seen double digit growth for three consecutive years, making the brand worth £24.2m in 2019. This success has continued over the last few weeks with sales value growing by over 40% in March (vs. previous year).

Parents of children who are going back to school will also be looking for nutritious, tasty, familiar and convenient options, such as Baker Street’s Rye Breads (the range includes Seeded Rye Bread and Rye & Wheat Bread), which are ideal for sandwiches. By stocking the high performing Baker Street range, retailers can achieve more sales and less waste. The core range of breads includes Sliced White, Brown and Seeded Loaves, Seeded Rye Bread and Rye & Wheat Bread, and lends itself perfectly for the back to school occasion.

“There are also a number of key trends in the snacking category, which retailers can capitalise on for their back to school offering, including global flavours,” adds Gilboy. “St Pierre is a must-stock for retailers as it continues to rapidly grow, up 34% year on year. A leading aspirational bakery brand, St Pierre offers a taste of delicious French bakery goods that children will love including soft Brioche Rolls and Chocolate Filled Crêpes.”

The demand for individually wrapped continental bakery goods is reflected in the brand’s sales of the ‘On-the Go’ range, which are growing by 150% YOY.

St Pierre’s longer shelf-life also makes it ideal for retailers looking to reduce in-store food wastage and is well suited for this demographic. The range can easily be enjoyed as a breaktime snack, post lunchtime treat or on the school run snacking peak.

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