Snacks dominate top selling FMCG in 2017, shows IRI data

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Chips and salty snacks are still a favorite treat among European consumers. Pic: ©GettyImages/IgorDutina
Chips and salty snacks are still a favorite treat among European consumers. Pic: ©GettyImages/IgorDutina
IRI’s European Shopper Survey found the convenience of snacking on-the-go is driving sales of the ambient category, which claimed second spot of the top 10 FMCG sectors last year.

The snacking phenomenon is showing no slow-down and is even taking over the traditional meal eaten at home, as consumers continue to cope with increasingly busy lifestyles.

IRI Graph 1
Source: IRI InfoScan

Snacks are a key driver of the ambient foods category, which – valued at €95.6bn across six key IRI European countries last year, including the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands – placed it in second spot after the chilled and fresh food category (at €102.9bn).

IRI reported the ambient category in these countries grew by 1.4% on average, with Germany and the Netherlands showing the biggest growth, both up 2.3% year-on-year (YoY).

IRI Graph 2
Source: IRI InfoScan

The market researcher said 83% of people consume a snack within a day of purchase – with more than half (61%) consuming it within minutes. More people also snack at the office (33%) than outdoors during a lunch break (25%), while in France, 88% eat the product on the run versus 12% at home.

Health versus indulgence

The pervading health and wellbeing demand continues to drive growth in organic, vegetarian and gluten-free products, with shoppers opting for ‘guilt-free’ options such as individually portioned fruit, nuts, popcorn, baked and vegetable chips.

Key insights for new product developers:

  • Provenance, wellness, authenticity, sustainability and vanity are key themes.
  • Wellness is a big driver of snacks, but rewards and treats are not disappearing. Manufacturers must be careful not to get caught in the middle of both needs states.
  • Both niche and mainstream players will win with ‘local’ product image.
  • Innovation and new concepts can help revitalise brand and category performance.
  • Pay close attention to evolving shopper missions.

In this area, innovation is a key driver and the double-digit growth of vegetable chips, for example, is being fuelled by new product development like root vegetable, pea, rice and lentil variants. 

Consumers still want that salty hit though, and the chips and salty snacks segment recorded a 3.7% increase to €6.3bn, ranking inside the top 10 for absolute growth YoY in all but two countries.

The balancing act

“Our analysis of the bestselling macro categories in 2017 throws up some interesting developments in terms of the changing profile of the typical European shopper,” ​said Olly Abotorabi, who has recently been appointed senior regional insight manager at IRI.

“Portability and re-sealable packaging, for example, are increasingly valuable assets in delivering convenience for the on-the-go consumer.

IRI Graph 3
Source: IRI InfoScan

“But [manufacturers] will need to balance this with demand for healthier options, as sugary snacks become less attractive to shoppers, and offer alternatives more suited to guilt-free grazing, such as nuts and seeds, fruit and popcorn.”  

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