According to a study by The Nielsen Co. that outlined c-store trends, pretzels and popcorn sales saw strong growth during the 52 weeks ended March 21, 2009, with sales for pretzels up $164 million, a 10.1% increase. Popcorn sales totaled $119 million, a 14.3% increase from the previous year. Potato chips lead the category with $937 million in sales, up 7.4%. Tortilla chips saw $739 million in sales, up 2.5%; nuts and seeds brought in $530 million in sales, up 2.7%; crackers totaled $252 million, up 0.4%. Other salty snacks brought in $1.14 billion, up 6.5%; and meat snacks totaled $833 million, up 4.1%.
In the midst of the recession, more consumers are opting for at-home entertainment, which is good news for the salty snacks category. This trend may account for a jump in sales of chips and popcorn, the quintessential counterparts for an at-home movie.
Last year, salty snack sales totaled $4,962 with a profit of $1,867, a 3.6% gross margin increase from 2007, making salty snacks the 6th most profitable category, according the 2009 NACS State of the Industry report, which polled 156 convenience store chains representing more than 20,500.
The category was up 6.2% in sales, and 17% in profits compared to 2007. Salty snack sales made up 3.5% of inside sales and 4.2% of average monthly sales, which totaled $36,466.
When it comes to snacking, healthy options still are high on consumers’ minds. Randy Adams, buyer for Huck’s Food and Fuel in Carmi, Ill., has noticed the trend. “The healthier items in these last couple of sets I’ve brought in have also been the bestsellers,” he noted.
According to report published by Mintel International, a Chicago-based marketing research firm, 60% of respondents said they are interested in more healthful alternatives to salty snacks, including pita chips or crackers.
This shift toward more healthful snacks may be one reason sunflower seeds are proving more popular with consumers and subsequently gaining more shelf space in c-stores.
According to Information Resources Inc. data for the 52 weeks ended April 19, 2009, the leading potato chip brands included Lays, Ruffles, Pringles and Lays Kettle Cooked. In the pretzel category Combos, Rold Gold and Snyder’s of Hanover drove sales. The top-selling salty snack brands excluding nuts included Funyuns, General Mills Chex Mix, Munchies and Sunchips.
Driving Meat Snack Sales
Meat snacks sales are motivated mostly by impulse buys within the 18-55 year old male demographic. C-store operators can further drive sales by positioning the item near the cash register, and informing consumers about new flavors and meat snack products.
New flavors, updated packaging and better marketing is helping to increase meat snack sales. Mintel reported consumers prefer spicy, barbecue, teriyaki and smoke flavored meat snacks.