Snacks & Candy

Salty Snacking Insights: A Q&A with Christopher Ferro of The Hershey Company

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Salty snack sales at convenience stores continue to grow. Christopher Ferro, Director of Small Format, Salty Snacks Sales, The Hershey Company, talks about the drivers for growth and the role salty snacks play across occasions.


How has the salty snack category in c-stores evolved over the last few years?

The demand for sweet and savory snacks increased during the pandemic and remains strong. Today’s consumers seek empowered social snacking occasions with diverse and elevated flavor experiences as they balance health and enjoyment.

The c-store channel is dynamic. It’s transient and easily affected by temporary influences, including increases in gasoline prices, but data for the last 12 months shows strong, consistent growth for salty snacks. For example, in the previous year, salty snack sales in c-stores have increased by 16.4%, with tortilla chips, pretzels and ready-to-eat popcorn experiencing significant growth, according to Circana data for the 52-Week Period Ending 09-10-23).

The current environment will continue to change the dynamics, but both positive and negative factors will affect in-store sales. Inflation is a concern for shoppers and can change their buying habits, but there is also an uptick in travel and on-the-go snacking, which is boosting traffic at c-stores. Hershey insights show that the top in-car snacking occasions are driving kids to/from activities (70%), social activities (69%) and commuting to/from work (68%).


What are consumers looking for? What’s driving the marketplace?

Two flavor profiles resonate strongly with the c-store shopper: indulgence and spicy. Sweet and spicy flavors play well into Hershey’s current salty snack portfolio and make the brand consider how to weave new flavors into future offerings across the better-for-you, permissible snacking and indulgent categories. Sweet and salty indulgent snacks also play well at c-store as seen in Dot’s HomestylePretzels Cinnamon Sugar, Reese’s Popcorn and hope to see in the new Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme Popcorn.


Talk about salty snacking occasions.

For a brand like SkinnyPop Popcorn, the use occasion is centered on consumers looking to fuel their day. Foodservice at c-stores is also experiencing a boom and bringing salty snacks along for the ride. During the lunch hour, shoppers grab a salty snack and their favorite sandwich and beverage. Salty snacks also perform well in the late afternoon as people look to curb their hunger in between meals or grab a snack to give to their kids after school. When it comes to snacking on the go, Hershey research found that drivers and passengers reach for snacks that are easy to handle while driving, convenient, quick to eat and not messy.


What’s ahead?

As a leading snacking powerhouse, there’s great growth potential in Hershey’s pretzels, popcorn and puffs offerings along with confection. For salty snacks specifically, expect innovation that embraces the flavor profiles c-store customers want to drive both purchase intent and brand loyalty.

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This post is sponsored by The Hershey Company


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