CHICAGO -- Despite years of news stories about the growth in snacking, the category could finally be leveling off. Cheese snacks, potato chips and pork rinds have all posted minimal gains so far this year, while stalwart subcategories such as popcorn, snack bars and pretzels all saw unit sales drop, according to IRI data.
“There are a couple of segments within salty that are flatlining, such as nuts, which is surprising due to the healthy halo that surrounds them, telling us that these consumers may have transferred over to a different segment looking for other means of attributes such as protein,” says Kristen Hamby, category manager of grocery and snacks for McLane.
But the year isn’t over yet. Category managers and industry trend spotters are still very bullish on the category, long propelled by strong innovation.
“Snacking is going to continue to be a big opportunity,” says Susan Viamari, vice president of thought leadership for IRI, Chicago, citing on-the-go eating as a continuing trend. Viamari also sees strong tailwinds for healthier-for-you options, marking it as one of the largest new opportunities in snacking for c-stores.
Inventive new products featuring different textures, flavors and functional attributes are taking the category by storm, indicating that the industry isn’t slowing with the unit sales. For McLane, the snack category as a whole grew 3.4% in average sales per store per week for the first quarter of 2017, slower than expected certainly when compared with the 12% to 13% growth last year during the same time period. But for the distributor, jerky was up 22% and sweet snacks grew 14%.
“There were several new jerky and sweet-snacks companies that came into the convenience market, which boosted incremental growth for these categories,” Hamby says. She expects the boost to continue through the rest of the year.
* Percent change from a year ago
** Products were isolated by McLane as top consumer velocity items in the six months ending June 30, 2017