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Snacking Across the Aisles: A Changing Environment
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Snacking Across the Aisles: A Changing Environment

Hungry? The average person reaches for 12 different kinds of snacks in any given month. Why do we snack? That depends on any number of reasons—reasons that differ by gender, generation and income level.

Sometimes we snack in place of a meal or to satisfy a hunger pang in between meals, while other times we’re simply munching out of boredom. Regardless of the reason, however, sales of the products that we’re reaching for have started to shift, and understanding why could put your brand ahead of the curve instead of behind it.

According to recent Nielsen research that provides a fully integrated view of sales performance across the store, snacking products increased dollar sales 3.2% during the 52-weeks ending June 27, 2015. While the increase is positive overall, not all categories are benefiting the way they have in the past.

Traditionally indulgent, easy-to-consume snacking staples like chocolate, crackers, ice cream, cookies and chips dominated sales during this time, but the pace of growth is slowing. While sensibly indulgent products with built-in portion control, such as mini pies and mini brownies, have grown by double digits, healthier alternatives have joined the ranks of the most lucrative snacking products. Greek yogurt, fresh cut fruit and deli dips, such as hummus, combined for more than $6 billion in sales during the 52-weeks ending June 27, 2015. With a combined growth rate of 8.4% over the prior year, or nearly $450 million, it’s clear that consumers are finding ways to satisfy their snacking needs with healthy alternatives.

While health is a key component of many fast-growing snacks, inherent health benefits aren’t always the ticket to big sales. For example, dollar sales of staple produce products like bananas, grapes and apples all fell over the past year, while products that incorporated health and convenience, including popped popcorn, health bars and mandarins, grew their dollar sales by double-digits. These products offer consumers convenient, portable snacking. But the space isn’t infinite, so one product’s success often comes at the expense of another just across the aisle.

On the flip side, the popularity of products like hummus have helped to buoy sales of complementary products; according to Nielsen total store connectivity research, sales of deli dips and spreads are strongly correlated to sales of deli snacks like crackers, which explains the double-digit growth rate of both products.

This isn’t to say that all products and brands within these categories are experiencing the same trends. Success requires the right value proposition, and retailers need to truly understand consumers and their changing needs to execute the right pricing, promotion and distribution of products across the store.