According to SNACMA, the savoury snacks segment makes a significant contribution to the country’s vital manufacturing base.
Food and drink manufacturers make up the largest percentage of the UK's total manufacturing sector, and of that, 27% is comprised of savoury snack producers.
Last year, the UK savoury snack segment was valued at around £3.2bn. The crisps category accounted for the largest value at $2.58bn, followed by nuts at £319m, baked snacks at $195m and popcorn at £127m.
“The stats and information we are sharing show that overall the snack industry remains in good health, with continued financial growth despite long-term stabilisation in volume sales,” Andrew Curtis, director general of the Potato Processors’ Association (PPA) - the umbrella under which SNACMA falls - told BakeryandSnacks.
Changing consumer tastes
There are over 170 snacks businesses in operation today, directly supporting over 10,000 employees. In particular, the industry plays a vital role in UK’s agricultural sector, with over 95% of all potato crisps produced in the UK made from locally-grown potatoes.
In 2018/2019, SNACMA members purchased around 575,000 tonnes of fresh potatoes, which is approximately 10% of the total UK potato volume. This is a vital for UK farmers, especially as light of the long term decline in the sales of fresh potatoes.
According to Defra’s 2014 Family Food report, over the past 40 years, home consumption of fresh potatoes has declined by 67%, mainly due to the growing tendency to moderate carbs in favour of ‘healthier’ lifestyle choices.
Bread consumption, too, has seen similar decline, particularly white bread (74%).
Conversely, the amount of processed potatoes consumed by the average Brit has more than doubled.
“62% of GB potato consumption is in processed form, with around 30% of the GB planted potato area intended for processing,” said Curtis.
“Over the past year, processed potato products accounted for circa 71% of the value retail sales for potatoes and derived products (Kantar, 52 w/e 14 July 2019). And with retail fresh sales volume remaining under pressure, it’s clear that the processing sector continues to play a very important role for GB potato industry as a whole.”
According to the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, the potato crisps market is valued at almost £950m. Crisps were bought by 93% of households last year.
Surprisingly though, NDNS data found the average British male munches on only 9g of crisps and savoury snacks per day, while women eat only 6g daily, which is the equivalent of 2-3 packets a week. The low consumption rate is partly driven by the increasing popularity of portion controlled packaging: 78% of the crisps and savoury snacks sold in the UK are packed in multi-packs, with each pack averaging around 24g in weight.
Changing consumer perception
Despite misconceptions that savoury snacks are filled with calories, harmful fats and sodium, they can actually form part of a well-balance and healthy diet, if eaten in moderation.
The industry, too, is making a big push towards reducing the total saturated fat and sodium content in their snacks.
According to the National Diet & Nutrition Survey (NDNS), savoury snacks contribute less than 1% of the average adult’s total saturated fat intake, thanks to the push to swap out hydrogenated oils (PHOs) for alternatives like sunflower, rapeseed, corn and olive oils.
Today, the sector has completely eliminated the use of PHOs; since 1991, the total fat content for the average potato crisp has fallen by around 23%; and since 2003, the industry has reduced the saturated fat content of its products by more than 70%, removing approximately 60,000 tonnes of it from the UK diet.
The sector is also leading the way on salt reduction, having reduced the sodium content in its products by 53% since 1991.
The average Brit’s daily sodium intake from crisps and snacks is less than 2% - again, due to the small number of snacks consumed, but also because crisps, in particular, come with a powerful hit of salt, as the seasoning is applied to the surface of the snack. Other everyday foods like bread, meat and cheese tend to have a higher salt content.
The snacks space is also ramping up on its better-for-you offerings and has spent significant resources in reformulating products to improve their nutritional profiles.
“The UK savoury snacks sector really deserves recognition for the tremendous efforts that have been made to improve the nutritional profile of the category as a whole over the past decades, through introduction of innovative and exciting new products to reformulation of classics,” said Curtis.
“It’s also worth noting that, in reformulating products, it’s very important that we continue to listen to what our consumers tell us, and that includes the freedom to continue to enjoy great tasting treats as part of a balanced diet.”
While the local populace has a soft spot for crisps, the UK snacks industry has certainly played its role in helping to drive exports. In 2018, the sector exported more than £145m worth of products, a 5% year-on-year growth.
The top European export markets are ranked 1) Ireland; 2) France; 3) the Netherlands; 4) Germany and 5) Belgium.
SNACMA acts as the voice of the UK savoury snacks industry. It’s membership – which includes snacking giants like PepsiCo, Tyrrell’s, Kettle Chips and KP Snacks, among others – is responsible for over 90% of UK snack sales of potato crisps, extruded snacks, corn chips, tortillas, baked snacks, savoury crackers, pretzels, popcorn, pork scratchings, peanuts and other snack nuts in the UK.