The pandemic has been good to the salty snack category. Growth in the segment outpaced all other snack categories during the COVID-19 outbreak as consumers stocked up on their favorite comfort snacks during lockdown. In fact, retail sales data from IRI and the Frito-Lay Snack Index indicate that salty snacks have been the No. 1 growth food segment since March.
Consumers found comfort in indulgent snacks in the time of COVID. Demand for Frito-Lay legacy brands has spiked over the past several months, with Lay’s up 32% and Tostitos up 42%. Mega-brands in the indulgent snack segment will continue to generate excitement with new and limited-edition flavors and impactful seasonal displays that create dependable lifts in sales.
“Snacks provide a bit of accessible excitement during difficult times,” affirms Beth Bloom, associate director, U.S. food and drink reports at Chicago-based Mintel. According to Bloom, more than a quarter of salty snackers say that they’re “always on the lookout for new flavors.
Consumers — particularly Gen Z and Millennials — have an insatiable appetite for new products in the snack aisle.
Signs indicate that consumers will adopt better habits once the pandemic is over.
Since portability is a key driver for increased consumption, brands that offer packaging or are forging connections with on-the-go opportunities will be brands to watch.
“New flavors and formats can provide an enjoyable change of pace and sense of agency when other life factors feel beyond your control,” she adds. “Leading into the pandemic, 38% of salty snackers who reported increasing their snack consumption in the past year attributed it to a better variety of flavors.”
Bigger flavors, more flavors and sweeter profiles are keeping consumers engaged. “Heat continues to be a snack favorite, with flavors like Spicy Tabasco, Ghost Pepper, Jalapeño Sizzle, Spicy Chili and Zesty Buffalo,” notes Sally Lyons Wyatt, EVP and practice leader at Chicago-based IRI. “Lime is hitting shelves with twists of lime and jalapeño lime. We have also seen the intersection of sweet and spicy like Mango Habanero, Honey Jalapeño, and Sweet & Hot.”
Customers Crave Variety
Industry experts expect more growth in sweeter flavor profiles this year as consumers develop a taste for snacks that combine sweet and savory flavors.
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