How a return to mobility will impact snacks

How a return to mobility will impact snacks

CHICAGO — A shift in the snacking category this year should bring changes in packaging sizes. Bar makers could benefit as well. E-commerce sales should continue to sail, increasingly taking up a larger share of the category.

“What we do know is that mobility is going to be the trigger that really changes what we see in ’21 going forward,” said Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice president and practice leader for Information Resources, Inc., in an April 1 webinar.

More consumers receiving COVID-19 vaccines and more lifting of restrictions at public places should bring more consumers out of their homes in 2021 and future years, marking a change from the stay-at-home situation of 2020.

A 2021 snacking survey from IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm, found 52% of respondents sought snacks that may be eaten in the car or on the go, which marked a decline of 5 percentage points from 2018.

The preference for packaging sizes changed during the pandemic as well. The survey showed 17% of consumers were buying more larger-sized packages with the intention of sharing as a means of reducing overall snack expenditures. The percentage was up 2 points when compared to 2018. Shifts to larger sizes came in potato chips, tortilla chips, cheese snacks, ready-to-eat popcorn, cookies, pretzels, granola bars and non-chocolate candy.

Consumers, though, are beginning to seek small-size packages again, Ms. Lyons Wyatt said.

“It is absolutely important that you get a balance of sizes in the stores because consumers are going to go back to those convenient small sizes,” she said.

“It is absolutely important that you get a balance of sizes in the stores because consumers are going to go back to those convenient small sizes.” — Sally Lyons Wyatt, Information Resources, Inc.

She added, “Mobility is going to be the trigger for the small-size rebound. Mobility is also going to be the trigger for drug and convenience (stores). Convenience is going to be the recipient of people being out and about, on the go. They are going to get those travel items. It’s already started.”

Sales of bars, often bought for on-the-go consumption, faltered during the pandemic. US sales declined for both smaller-size packages and larger-size packages in nutritional/intrinsic health bars for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 22, 2020, when compared to the previous 52 weeks, according to IRI. Sales declined in smaller sizes but increased in larger sizes for granola bars.

The IRI snacking survey found 24% of consumers said they switched to baking snack bars instead of buying them during the pandemic. The percentages were higher for younger generations with ages 35-44 at 38%, ages 25-34 at 36% and ages 18-24 at 30%.

Bar makers now need to remind younger consumers of the convenience of their bars, Ms. Lyons Wyatt said.

On a positive note, the snacking survey found the number of consumers eating five or more snacks per day when compared to 2018 was up 7 percentage points for consumers age 18-24, 12 points for consumers age 25-35 and 13 points for consumers age 35-44.

“That is a tailwind that any industry would love to see,” Ms. Lyons Wyatt said. “So it’s great news for snacking.”

E-commerce sales surged in the pandemic. US sales in core snacking categories increased 10% in the 52 weeks ended Dec. 22, 2020, when compared to the previous 52 weeks, according to IRI. Core snack category sales increases were 6% in brick-and-mortar, which made up 91% of the entire category, and 84% in e-commerce, which made up the other 9%. When consumers shopped online, 32% accessed a list of items they had purchased before and reordered from that list.

“You’ve got to get your product onto that list,” Ms. Lyons Wyatt said.