The Salty Snack Revolution: From Classic to Creative
By Meline Beach
Salty snacks have been a staple of the convenience store channel for decades. From potato chips and pretzels to crackers and meat sticks, these treats are a quick fix to satisfy cravings for customers on the go.
Potato chips are by far the most common salty snack, with brands like Old Dutch holding their share of the market. This Canadian potato chip company has been delivering a classic crunch across its chip and corn snacks for over six decades. Customer favourites include Rip-L Original, BBQ, Salt & Vinegar, Ketchup, Ridgies Extra Ketchup, Dutch Crunch Jalapeno & Cheddar and Arriba Nacho.
“Old Dutch chips are a convenient salty snack choice with an abundance of flavour options,” says Matthew Tarko, product marketing manager at Old Dutch Foods Ltd., who works closely with convenience and gas retailers to promote national marketing programs through the execution of point-of-sale and social marketing. “A lot of market research goes into determining the right product mix, flavour trends, and listening to our customers.”
While flavour preferences remain the same across Canada, Old Dutch BBQ potato chips have heightened popularity in Ontario and Quebec. Regarding product innovation, Ridgies Extra Ketchup and Ridgies Extra Salt & Vinegar in 200g and 66g bags, launched earlier this year, have been drawing in rave reviews.
“Our biggest salty snack seller is Old Dutch chips in large bags and small snack bags,” says Denise von Schon, general manager of Gateway Gas Bar & Convenience Store. Located along Highway #8 outside of Riverton, Manitoba, Gateway Gas Bar places its salty snacks near the front counter to help stimulate impulse sales mostly to commuters.
In terms of trends, von Schon believes that people tend to stick with familiar comfort snacks regardless of their healthy profile, however, one relatively newer product on their shelves has been capturing a lot of attention.
“TWIGZ has been a huge hit in our store. With four flavour options, they are an incredibly satisfying snack, even for people who were never a fan of pretzels,” says von Schon.
A New Twist
Founded in 2019, TWIGZ is a family enterprise based out of Calgary, Alberta. Tagged as “Canada’s Original Craft Pretzels,” TWIGZ is available in four bold flavours and sold in over 4,500 retailers across Canada.
“The convenience store channel is very important to us as it’s the first retail channel that put TWIGZ on the map,” says TWIGZ Co-Founder Mark Brandt, who relies on direct orders and distributors, such as CoreMark, Wallace & Carey, and Sobeys Wholesale to move their product.
One trend that has emerged in the salty snack market is the demand for more unique and exotic flavours. While classic options like salt and vinegar and barbecue will always be popular, many customers are now seeking out more adventurous flavour options. This trend has led to the emergence of flavours like Zesty Dill Pickle and Buttery Herb & Garlic, which are TWIGZ customer favourites, followed by Fire Roasted Jalapeno for those who like a little spice. Smooth Cheddar Ranch is the company’s latest flavour innovation that’s reaching its way to the top.
“Even though we’re a small Canadian business, we’re committed to competing with the major brands by offering competitive margins and equal sales support for our c-store retailers,” says Brandt. “In addition, we support retailers by providing promos, and in-store marketing, including easy stack knock-out boxes, shelf wobblers, and clip strips as eye-catching displays, and sampling to help drive sales.”
In terms of product innovation, Brandt remains tight-lipped but offers assurances that his mom, as top chef, is busy working in the kitchen creating an exciting fall SKU.
With the growth of the health and wellness industry, there has been an increase in demand for snacks that are not only good for you but also taste great. Innovation in high-protein snacks has been on the rise, with companies introducing new protein products that are delicious and convenient. One high-protein product in convenience stores that has stood the test of time is meat sticks.
The Great Canadian Meat Company has been supplying the convenience store channel with its Authentic Dry Pepperoni sticks since 1992. The Whitby, Ontario-based company has since expanded its product offering to include the largest selection of shelf-stable meat snacks in Canada, featuring pork, beef, chicken, turkey and venison – all sourced within Canada’s borders.
“Great Canadian Meat Company meat snacks are lower in sugar and fat and higher in protein,” says Michael Cronin, executive director of strategy and partnerships at The Great Canadian Meat Company. “More now than ever before, protein is a key driver for many consumers when they’re looking for a snack option.”
“While chips are our best-seller in the salty snack category, meat sticks are a close second amongst our customers, many of whom are construction workers and teens, especially at lunch,” says Thomas Sheehan, owner and operator of Enniskillen General Store. “With a shelf-life of well over a year and a profit margin of 50 per cent, meat sticks are a profitable opportunity. Sometimes we’ll offer multi-buy deals for a better price (known as “buy one, get one” BOGO) to create excitement in the category and drive sales.”
Whether sold as single serve, twin pack, multipack, or bulk pack, Great Canadian Meat Company’s grab-and-go meat sticks occupy a small footprint in the store and are best presented on the counter to help drive impulse sales for hungry customers looking for a healthy and satisfying snack on the go.
In recent years, customers have demanded healthier salty snack options that are lower in calories, fat, and sugar. As a result, many companies have emerged, offering a different option made with healthier ingredients that contain fewer calories and less fat than traditional snacks. These snacks are often made with alternative ingredients like lentils, chickpeas, and quinoa, and are available in a range of flavours.
Based on his favourite childhood favourite made by his mom, Pokko Founder Sasha Rajamani launched his rice and chickpea-based chips. This crunchy recipe uses Canadian ingredients and authentic flavouring, including Kashmiri chili peppers imported from India, where his parents were born. The vegan product, free from trans fats and cholesterol, boasts a high source of fibre, iron, and OMEGA-6 and OMEGA-3 polyunsaturates. Even its chili peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C.
“We take pride in bringing an innovative chip to the market,” says Rajamani. “We are different in shape, texture, crunch, and I’d argue most importantly our flavour. In such a saturated chip market, we wanted to introduce a refreshing spin to a chip.”
While still in its infancy, the company debuted with a soft launch in 2021, Pokko chips come in two flavours, Original and Spicy, and are sold in 120g and 45g sized bags at select retailers.
“With each account listing, I want it to be a win-win,” says Rajamani. “Once we strategically choose which accounts to be listed in, I want to demonstrate that we have the resources to support them in growing in-store sales, whether that’s price promotions, sampling, a flyer spot, and brand awareness through our social media platforms. It will be a customized approach for each account.”
Rajamani adds that they’re already working towards bringing a new flavour in 2024, but for now, are focusing on spreading the love with their existing flavours.
Whether customers are looking for classic options like potato chips and pretzels, or more unique and exotic flavours, there are plenty of options available to satisfy their cravings as salty snack manufacturers are constantly innovating and adapting to meet the changing needs of their customers.
Meline Beach is a Toronto-based communications practitioner and frequent contributor to Convenience and Carwash Canada. In addition to freelance writing, Meline provides communications and public relations support to businesses across Canada. She can be reached at www.mlbcomms.ca.