As we reported last week, British spending on snack foods is showing no sign of slowing, and is likely to top £10 billion by 2008. But the UK is not the only country in Europe where snack sales are on the increase, with Britain's cross-Channel neighbours showing a particular penchant for between-meal munching.
Datamonitor's New Impulse Consumption Occasions report shows that, on average, French consumers eat 4.4 times a day and snacks now account for 39 per cent of these occasions. By 2008, the French will spend a total of €9.8 billion on snacks, representing an increase of over 10 per cent on 2003.
The French in fact munch through €148.5 worth of snacks (categorised by Datamonitor as bakery items, bagged snacks, dairy snacks, fruit and vegetables and confectionery) per person per year, and this is set to increase to almost €161 by 2008. This compares to an average annual spending of €136.5 per person in Europe, according to the report.
Like their counterparts in the UK, French snackers are looking for different functionalities at different times of the day, often needing an energy boost first thing in the morning and something more indulgent when they relax at the end of the day, and manufacturers need to cater to a wide range of demands - and do more to ensure that their products are marketed with a particular occasion in mind.
Many traditional savoury snack brands in France currently target the popular apéro moment - before the evening meal - but this sector is overcrowded and still very traditional in its content (nuts, olives, cocktail sausages, potato chips, etc.). Other snack sectors are now developing rapidly as a result, such as dairy or fruit-based products which cater for health conscious consumers preferring something light to a mid-morning croissant.
Again, French consumers are no different from their neighbours across the English channel in seeking products which offer both a taste experience and an emotional attachment - food which makes them feel good.
In a country where consumers are extremely attached to their traditional foodstuffs - the shelf space devoted to products such as foie gras are a testament to just how keen this relationship with the terroir still is - there is perhaps a greater understanding of this phenomenon than in other European nations, but this could simply make it harder still for snack makers to achieve their goal, competing as they will be with a wide range of products much closer to French consumers' hearts (and stomachs) than any new-fangled snack.
That said, French consumers are becoming more open to different tastes, a change which has benefited ethnic snack products in particular, although Datamonitor said it ahd also seen an equally important counter-trend towards traditional flavours - evidence that snack producers need to have broad portfolios to cater to an ever widening array of tastes.
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