2020 saw a number of major changes to how people shop in the convenience channel with more people spending more time and money in smaller shops.

Over half of UK shoppers (54%) use a convenience store every week as a direct result of the pandemic and these shoppers are typically spending more money with basket spend increasing by +11% in 2020 (Lumina).

The crisps and snacks segment performed well last year, growing +5.3% in symbols and independent stores (Nielsen). However, this was not without its challenges as shopper’s habits changed, with many favouring take home products with more time at home over food to go products. Within crisps and snacks, larger packs (RRP PMP and big bag sharing) benefited while the suppression of FTG missions inhibited sales on singles and grab bags.

Nonetheless, food to go still accounts for a quarter of all missions (26% of purchases) in symbols and independent stores and it is expected these missions will become more important as restrictions are slowly eased and the government says its safe for people to return to some of their pre-pandemic habits.

“Given the fragmented nature of how people are currently able to socialize, it is hugely important for retailers to adapt to a variety of consumer occasions, which wholesalers must be prepared for,” comments Guy Harvey, Impulse Category Management Controller, PepsiCo. “Food to go is no longer limited to breakfast or lunchtime as the pandemic has opened up further chances for people to opt for products on the move as part of informal social and work catch-ups. Those retailers that are able to adapt to the changes will be able to benefit most from the changing consumer landscape.”

While shoppers’ first thoughts around food to go are often associated with the lunchtime occasion, as our lives have adjusted to the pandemic, there are more consumption occasions than ever before. PepsiCo is expecting consumption at breakfast (coffee and porridge) to increase, as well as during ‘after work socialising’, either in the park or picking up snacks on the move. Lockdown has resulted in more people being willing to grab a coffee and a snack to enjoy as part of a walk. This behaviour is likely to continue throughout this year.

“For these occasions, stocking a breadth of well known and loved products is key,” adds Harvey. “Shoppers are demanding a greater range of products from their convenience stores, something that we’ve seen over the last year with 54% of shoppers using a convenience store every week.”

They are also likely to make unplanned purchases in convenience stores, with 60% influenced by the stores and its fixtures, making stocking decisions even more vital.

Many stores increased the number of crisps and snacks SKUs that they ranged on average by +8 SKUs last year (Nielsen), but it can be difficult to know which products will help to drive a strong return. Therefore, PepsiCo has updated its core range of bestsellers (the Walkers HERO 25 range), to support retailers in offering products to meet these changes in snacking occasions. It includes a number of RRP PMP, singles, multipacks, sharing format products that cover the different shopping habits seen in the channel; including food on the go.

Pia Villa, Chief brand officer at graze, comments: “Added benefits is what shoppers are looking out for when shopping for the week, or on-the-go. In fact, 44% of adults see snacks as a good way to boost their nutritional intake. 100% of our snacks provide a source of fibre and each and every snack contains a benefit such as protein or vitamins and minerals.”

According to a graze health survey, 53% of consumers are actively trying to eat snacks that are more healthy. All graze’s snacks are made using ingredients from nature and the brand never uses artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners or preservatives.

Over half of consumers (52%) are tempted by unhealthy choices and identified this as a key barrier to being healthy, but with graze they can enjoy a guilt-free sweet snack. The brand has recently launched more indulgent flavours such as Cherry Bakewell flapjack to provide a healthier alternative to the high sugar cherry Bakewell tart. Since it launched in May, the flapjack is recruiting new shoppers to the cereal bar aisle with 28% of shoppers being incremental to the category.

“There is a lot of noise around health claims in the snack bar category, but we are very single minded on our ambitions, and we are going after sugar,” adds Villa. “From a survey we carried out last year, we know that shoppers see sugar as the biggest health concern when it comes to snacking.”

The brand is leading the charge on this front, having removed 160 tonnes of sugar from its range by the end of 2019 – Oat Boosts and on-the-go flapjacks now contain up to 60% less sugar than the average cereal bar whilst still delivering great taste. Just this year, graze re-branded and added new recipes to the Oat Boosts range, which uses chicory root to replace sugar. This plant-based ingredient is naturally sweet and means graze doesn’t need to use artificial sweeteners.

graze delivers variety and choice for shoppers with 26 recipes in approximately 57 different formats. With only 14% of shoppers buying both sweet and savoury snacks, graze can offer retailers a balanced range of both options for their store. Not only does the portfolio cater for both of these taste preferences, but it also addresses shopper barriers to snacking – offering reduced calorie options in the savoury category and reduced sugar products in the sweet category.

Susan Nash, Trade Communications Manager at Mondelez International, comments: “Wholesalers have a great opportunity to drive sales by offering convenient formats which cater to consumers’ out-of-home breakfast occasions. While people have had to alter how they live and work as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, a focus on wellbeing will continue to be important.”

The healthier biscuits category, as defined by Nielsen, represents 21% (Nielsen) of the biscuit market. What’s more, consumers’ aspirations for healthier eating takes prominence in the morning.

belVita and Cadbury Brunch Bar are ideal for consumers seeking more functional attributes and looking for treats that help keep them going. belVita is the number one breakfast biscuit and gives consumers energy for the whole morning through its five wholegrains. Cadbury Brunch Bar Choc Chip is the number one SKU in the segment, growing at 11.9% and with value sales of £17.3M (Nielsen).

Healthier options are more important for consumers – who are looking for healthier ingredients such as oats and other wholegrains – but most won’t compromise on taste. Breakfast is also growing in importance among younger age groups – particularly with 18 to 34-year-olds.

As the UK’s number one breakfast biscuit brand (Nielsen), with the only breakfast biscuit range with proven slow-release carbohydrates, belVita is well placed to help retailers take advantage of the continued long- term trend in sales of biscuits. belVita is also the third biggest biscuit brand overall in the UK (Nielsen).

belVita helps to meet consumer needs thanks to its unique mix of five whole grains and its position as a source of fibre and magnesium, providing energy for the whole morning in a tasty and nutritious biscuit.

Importantly, belVita also offers a great range of flavours and textures to meet consumer tastes, helping the brand to achieve one of the highest repeat purchase rates in the biscuits category at 61% (Kantar), showing its shoppers are loyal and will be looking for the brand on shelf.

“Snacking cheese makes for a great savoury addition on-the-go and we have continued to innovate and invest within the category to create excitement for consumers at lunchtime,” adds Nash.

Products that are spreadable and versatile, including cream cheese, have seen strong progress. The spreads segment has grown significantly since lockdown started. Philadelphia itself is experiencing double-digit growth (Nielsen). As well as this, with a heritage that spans over seventy years combined with an incredible 95% brand awareness (Kantar), Dairylea is a household name.

“During times of uncertainty consumers seek out brands they know and trust to deliver on familiarity and taste,” says Nash. “This meant Mondelez continued to be the single biggest contributor to growth within the cheese category, across both processed and cream cheese.”

Products that are spreadable and versatile saw strong progress in 2020, with the spreads segment growing significantly (Nielsen) and contributing to Dairylea’s success. In fact, Dairylea Spreads & Portions experienced double-digit growth by attracting new shoppers to the brand (Nielsen) – as well as the wider category – resulting in increased basket spend.

Balance and wellbeing have been massive trends over the last year, particularly as shoppers have had to alter how they live and work because of the pandemic. In particular, cheese snacks are viewed by consumers as ‘better than’ snacks, helping them to manage portion control while still enjoying a great-tasting product. While more Dairylea snacks will move to under 100 Kcals in 2021, the brand’s tasty triangles are already 33kcals per triangle. Made with milk and cheese, it provides the perfect snack for shoppers looking for portion control for their families.

“On-the-go and single confectionery is a critically important category and if its potential is fully maximised, it can help drive incremental sales,” Nash continues. “Wholesalers should stock leading singles brands such as Twirl, Wispa and Cadbury Dairy Milk to help their retailer customers increase impulse sales from shoppers looking for a treat on-the-go.”

Cadbury has unveiled a new hazelnut flavour for its top-selling Wispa Gold chocolate bar. Cadbury Wispa Gold Hazelnut flavour is available to order now in a single 48g bar, helping retailers to drive on-the-go sales.

The Wispa range is a favourite with shoppers across the UK; in fact, it’s the third biggest brand within the Cadbury range (Nielsen) after Cadbury Dairy Milk and Cadbury Twirl. Wispa Gold has grown by 23.5% (Nielsen) over the last year- highlighting just how popular this variant is with shoppers. What’s more, hazelnut is the second biggest flavour in chocolate and is growing at 12.8% (Nielsen).

Cadbury is also helping retailers expand their confectionery range with the launch of Cadbury Caramilk.

The new bars are made with a blend of white chocolate with a smooth texture, sourced from 100% sustainable cocoa.

Cadbury Caramilk is available in multiple formats – including a single bar to drive impulse sales – to help retailers recruit new shoppers with a trusted and recognisable brand.

Julia May, Brand Manager at Fridge Raiders, comments: “The need to cater for healthy snacking has become extremely important in the aftermath of the pandemic, with chilled snacks and foods that are high in protein enjoying the most success in the category. Fridge Raiders Chicken Bites range is high in protein and made with 100% chicken breast making them a substantial on-the-go snack for wholesalers to cater to both health and hunger concerns.”

The brand’s newest snacking format, Chicken and Dip, caters to the growing demand for diversity in meat snacking and enables wholesalers to offer a brand-new format for snacking on the move; perfect for retailers looking to cater to snacking on the move.

Many consumers are now looking to diversify their food-to-go repertoire with meat-free, plant-based and healthier proteins as well as exciting new flavours and product formats (Kantar). This has led to flavour profiles seeing a resurgence as brands look to reinvigorate their food-to-go offerings. Consumers are looking for snacks that contain interesting ingredients that are outside the norm. Fridge Raiders has been addressing these shopper needs by introducing its flavour-packed World Flavours range.

“The variety of flavours, including Katsu Chicken Bites, allows independents to provide flavour variety that will excite shoppers and boost sales,” adds May. “The range has been really successful in increasing sales: the Katsu flavour helped to drive growth of 24% across the Fridge Raiders range.”

The entire plant-based category is now worth £572 million (IRI). As a result, convenience stores should ensure they are investing in plant-based alternatives in their food-to-go fixture. Fridge Raiders Veggie Bites are a equally tasty vegetable-based alternative to the popular Chicken Bites. Available in Simply Seasoned and Mexican Heatwave these tasty snacks prove that plant-based isn’t flavour-free.

Fridge Raiders also recently launched its Mighty Multipack, containing four 45g packs of Chicken Bites, perfect for adding to lunchboxes or heading to the office. The multipack contains two Slow Roasted Chicken Bites, one Southern Style Chicken Bites and one Katsu Chicken Bites, giving consumers choice and variety for on-the-go snacking. These options are perfect for wholesalers looking to diversify their snacking ranges post-COVID. With habits changing rapidly and both at-home and on-the-go snacking occasions seeing growth, having a varied range for retailers means wholesalers can help their customers enjoy success across the snacking category.

“Meat and cheese snacks have done exceedingly well over lockdown, so wholesalers should be aware that consumers will be looking to continue these snacking habits when on-the-go,” says May. “With Fridge Raiders offering healthy, protein-filled Chicken Bites in new Chicken and Dip and Mighty Multipack formats, wholesalers can work with retailers to really capitalise on consumer snacking habits as they evolve back into food-to-go occasions.” ‘

 

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