Consumers Seek Comfort in Salty Snacks

Consumers Seek Comfort in Salty Snacks

By Angela Altass

People often seek comfort, especially during stressful times, by indulging in snacks and it’s not unusual for these treats to be in the salty category.

Salty snacks have remained very stable in an age of supply chain issues, insecurity, and cost increases, says David Scholtens, president, Scholtens Candy Incorporated. 

“Salty snacks, from our perspective as a large candy and chocolate packager and distributor, is a very stable category,” says Scholtens. “Salty snacks for Scholtens Inc. refers mainly to peanuts of many flavour profiles, pretzels, sweet heat bar mixes, cashews, pistachios, and almonds.”

The pandemic has affected the snacking industry greatly, says Scholtens.

“We have seen a lot of people turning to comfort food or even possibly stress eating, simply to deal with the negative news that surrounds us each day in the media,” says Scholtens. “Combine that with the closure of gyms and recreational institutions and we get the feeling people are putting their diet and activity goals on the shelf as we deal with the pandemic and with that comes increased snacking.”

Salty snacks, like peanuts or cashews, keep people fueled up and sustained for a longer period of time than other snacks, such as chocolate or candy, notes Scholtens. 

“What makes salty snacks a great fit for convenience stores has more to do with the size than the product itself,” states Scholtens. “A convenience store, and the packaging sizes they offer, make it easy to pick a personal favourite for your own consumption, which also prevents overconsumption.”

Salty snacks normally have a shorter date code than other items so store owners need to be mindful of shelf life, says Scholtens. 

“One bad experience with a stale bag of snacks and you could lose a customer for life,” states Scholtens. “Our reps are highly mindful of this and work very diligently to check date codes with each of our customers, removing anything that will be past the best before date upon their next visit. We want every experience with our brand to be a perfect one.”

He states that store owners should know when selling salty snacks where the product came from.

“For example, if the salty snack you are retailing was purchased at a wholesale or cash and carry, it could be final sale and you need to be mindful of the best before date and possibly need to reduce the price for quick sale if you are running out of time,” notes Scholtens. “If the salty snacks are from full-service companies, like Scholtens, you most likely have a guaranteed sales agreement and they will take care of the dating issues for you. This is a huge benefit to retailers and a large part of our success as a company.”

Store owners should also be mindful of the cost they are selling the product for, says Scholtens.

“We typically see retailers marking items up 25-40 per cent for profitability and that’s great,” says Scholtens, “just be mindful that if you add too much gross margin to the product, you may price yourself higher than your competition and, because of that, see less sales. It is best to deal with a full-service company and agree to the suggested retail options they offer.”

Consumers are always looking for what’s new in a category but a lot of times, when the decision needs to be made, they take home the old classic item that they know and trust, says Scholtens.

“It takes a lot of pushing and marketing dollars to take an item from new to a popular everyday good-selling item,” states Scholtens.

Canadians are looking for delicious products that bring them comfort, says Kelly Bateman, director of business development, PepsiCo Foods Canada. Beyond their go-to favourites, Bateman says Canadians are looking to elevate their snacking experience with new formats, flavours and textures.

PepsiCo Foods Canada recently launched new flavours, such as Miss Vickie’s Spicy Dill Pickle, elevated texture through the introduction of Ruffles Double Crunch, and offered new forms of snacking with Doritos 3D. PepsiCo continues to create limited-time offerings, like Cheetos Ketchup Leaves, to deliver exciting new products to consumers. 

“Another area where we’ve seen tastes evolve is in spice,” says Bateman. “That’s why we continue to innovate in our Flamin’ Hot portfolio, which now spans Doritos and Cheetos with more coming in 2022. Our business has certainly experienced changes in buying patterns, trip frequency and basket size throughout the pandemic. We’ve also seen significant growth in consumer adoption of ecommerce services, including click and collect and home delivery. Many of our C&G customers have tapped into this through partnerships with concierge services, such as Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes, and DoorDash.”

While the demand remains strong in the snacks category overall, there are consumers who are specifically looking for products that are lower in sodium for lifestyle or preference reasons, says Bateman, noting that PepsiCo has added brands like Bare, Off the Eaten Path, and Popcorners to broaden its snacking lineup.

“Innovation is always a key pillar of growth for PepsiCo but when it comes to the best sellers in C&G, the classics are always our top performers,” says Bateman. “Doritos Nacho and Lays Classic are typically number one and two nationally. Interestingly, in the Maritime Provinces, Doritos Zesty is the number one Doritos flavour. In British Columbia and Alberta, we’ve seen tremendous growth in our Miss Vickie’s brand and Sea Salt and Malt Vinegar has actually surpassed Lays Classic as our number two best seller. So, there are certainly some different taste preferences throughout the country.”

Salty snacks are a high impulse purchase and should be merchandised in high traffic locations for optimal visibility, such as six feet from the cash, says Bateman.

“This is especially important for single-serve snacks,” she says. “Many consumers also visit the beverage coolers before checking out, which is an opportunity to ensure that snacks are displayed near beverages for pairing. If a retailer has a foodservice destination within their store, snack-sized potato chips are a great addition to any sandwich and should be located nearby.”

Salty snacks are a growing category; up 12.6 per cent, according to Nielsen YTD, Jan 1, 2022 statistics, says Christine Jakovcic, vice president, marketing and nutrition, Kellogg Canada Inc. 

“Snacks help build basket size, which contributes to increased retailer margins when combined with beverages,” says Jakovcic. “There’s no doubt that Canadians have substantially increased their consumption of salty snacks during the pandemic. Much of this has been driven by increased afternoon snacking with consumers being at home more. It’s also worth mentioning that while closures impacted consumers’ routines and traffic softened at the height of the pandemic, the convenience and gas channel saw some benefit of consumers traveling within Canada last summer, which in turn had a positive impact on salty snack consumption.”

Consumer interest in bold and spicy flavours is growing, adds Jakovcic. 

“This insight helped inform the introduction of some of our latest salty snack innovation offerings, including Cheez-It Crackers White Cheddar Flavour and Pringles Fiery Loaded Nacho Flavour chips,” says Jakovcic. “We’ve also seen a shift in consumer behaviour towards eating crackers like chips, which we’ve leaned into by offering bigger sizes for sharing, such as Cheez-It Original Family Size and Pringles Party Stack.”

Responding to this increasing interest in bold flavours, Amplify Snack Brands has announced the launch of the Paqui One Chip Challenge in Canada for September 2022. The challenge involves eating a chip made with hot peppers.

“Canadian consumers are well aware of the program given its immense success on social media,” states David Di Dodo, customer sales executive, Amplify Snack Brands. “The 2021 program was a viral sensation with 1.8 billion campaign impressions. This year’s chip has two peppers: the infamous Carolina Reaper and the stringing Scorpion Pepper.”

Consumers are seeking better-for-you brands with 55 per cent of consumers seeking natural and unprocessed foods when they snack, says Di Dodo, noting that Amplify Snack products are free of artificial ingredients, flavours and preservatives, as well as being vegan, kosher, non-GMO and gluten-free.

After nearly two years of being tethered to their kitchens and recipe repertoires, new snacks are a source of excitement and variety to break up every day routines, says Jaclyn Campbell, cracker category lead for Mondelez Canada. A Mondelez State of Snacking report notes that 86 per cent of Canadian consumers say they look forward to trying new snacks and that nine in 10 consumers say they eat at least one snack for sustenance and one snack for indulgence each day. According to the report, many Canadians view snacking as a time to escape the mental load of food choices that surround them every day with 91 per cent saying that some snacks should be just for enjoyment or satisfaction without worrying too much about nutrition.

“In 2022, we are re-igniting a classic Canadian favourite, Crispers,” says Campbell. “We have an exciting new campaign that speaks to the uniqueness of our product. To support this new campaign, we are also delivering a new limited edition flavour: Fiery Jalapeno. We are working with some great partners, such as Mattel and Coca-Cola, to bring exciting offers to consumers throughout the year.

As people continue to navigate their way through unprecedented times, new salty snack product options will add some spice to their day while well-known classic choices provide a level of familiarly and comfort.  

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