Crisps and snacks have always been core to every independent store, but which trends are having the biggest influence on range planning and sales in 2016? John Eastwood investigates

Earlier this year, I undertook a major transaction study which highlighted the importance of crisps and snacks to independent retailers.

I tracked sales in a sample of 211 shops over a four-week period, where more than two million transactions took place. Of these, 8.1% involved the purchase of crisps and snacks, showing that one in 12 customers buys from this category.

More importantly, the data showed customers who purchased crisps and snacks bought an average 4.3 items during their visit, and more than 24% of these transactions included six or more items. This is far higher than the average basket size.

Looking at data for the wider independent sector, two main trends are evident in this market this year.

Firstly, pricemarked packs are growing in prominence. Figures for the first 24 weeks of the year show they now account for 45.5% of sales value, which has grown from 36% a year ago.

Snacks graphsPepsiCo’s introduction of 50p pricemarks on standard 32.5g bags of Walkers last summer has contributed heavily to this growth. They have been adopted by the majority of retailers, with data for the four weeks to 11 June showing 82% of stores had chosen to sell independents’ best-selling product, Walkers Cheese & Onion, in pricemarked packs. The fact 18% decided to opt for non-pricemarked packs shows how important it still is for manufacturers to offer retailers choice about what to stock, however.

Secondly, another major development has been the increasing importance of sharing bags. In the first 24 weeks of 2015 they accounted for 34% of market value, but this had grown to 38% in the same period this year. There was marked growth in Doritos 102g bags pricemarked at £1, for example, and also significant contributions from Pringles 190g and KP with Hula Hoops at this price.

Transaction data for sharing bags show that while they sell well at lunchtime, their peak sales are achieved between 4pm and 5pm, so it is clearly essential to ensure shelves are fully stocked at these hours.

Multipacks and assorted boxes also continue to climb the sales charts.

Looking at the crisps and snacks market overall, traditional crisps accounted for 31% of sales value last year, with other savoury snacks such as Pringles and Doritos taking a 62% share. Elsewhere, nuts, savoury popcorn and other miscellaneous snacks such as Bombay mix make up the mix, with nuts and popcorn in distribution in just over 80% of shops.

In 2015, £340m was spent on crisps and snacks in our shops, representing a small fall of 2.6% on the value of the market compared with 2014. Moving into this year, the rate of decline slowed down to just 1.6% in the first 24 weeks.

So while symbol groups and manufacturers give ever more focus to categories such as fresh and chilled, this study shows how core traditional sectors remain foundational to independent stores.

This column was written by John Eastwood and first appeared in Retail Newsagent on July 8. To subscribe to Retail Newsagent and see articles like this every week, click here.