Category Management Handbook

A Simpler Snack Set

Cleaner ingredient lists, emphasis on core kept snacks on track in 2015

A single acquisition by one of the industry’s food giants this year encapsulates several trends driving the snack category.

General Mills Inc., Minneapolis, bought Epic Provisions, an Austin, Texas-based maker of meat-based snack bars. Epic bars have a healthful profile: a gluten-free, low-sugar blend of grass-fed animal protein, fruit and nuts. They come in bold flavors, such as Bison Bacon Cranberry and Beef Habanero Cherry. And their packaging is simple, “something similar to what you’d find in a farmer’s market,” says Kristen Hamby of McLane Co. Inc.

Items such as Epic bars are bound to become more popular as consumers continue to turn snack time into meal time and want more healthful options, says Hamby, category manager of grocery and snacks for the Temple, Texas-based distributor. “A lot of that is being driven by millennials,” she says. “And manufacturers are paying attention.”

Hectic lifestyles and round-the-clock snacking will keep the snack category growing. C-store dollar sales of snack bars rose more than 12% in 2015, while snack nuts grew more than 13%, according to IRI. Dried meat snacks were up nearly 10%.
While consumers may be snack-happy, they also want to know what they’re eating.

“Overall, you’re seeing simpler ingredients, clear and clean packaging and smaller portion sizes,” Hamby says.

Even though better-for-you snacks are the trendsetters, c-stores can’t ignore more indulgent offers. Products such as the new Ritz Bits Bacon & Cheese, Bugles Ranch flavor, and M&M’s-branded Rice Krispies Treats are good indulgent picks for 2016, Hamby says.

“It’s important for convenience retailers to ensure that they dedicate adequate space to the savory and indulgent snacks alongside the healthier options,” Hamby says. Snackers tend to purchase a healthier item for the morning and a more indulgent item for later.

Retailers are also adding more breakfast snacks into their cookie and cracker sets. Some chains are dedicating entire endcaps to the breakfast snack occasion, Hamby says. These often include Pop-Tarts, Nutri-Grain bars, cereal cups, Kind bars and belVita Breakfast Biscuits.

Snack innovation this year will be shaped by bold and spicy flavors such as Sriracha, jalapeño and wasabi. But retailers can expect fewer new products this year in salty snacks.

“A lot of manufacturers are concentrating on their core items,” says Hamby. “They’re realizing that implementing a new item and continuing to replace it with different new items when it doesn’t perform isn’t efficient and does not grow additional sales.”

Snacks: What to Watch

Salty Snacks

Sweet Snacks

Meat Snacks

Energy/Diet/Granola Bars

Category Manager of the Year: William Slattery

View the full 2016 Category Management Handbook

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