Guest article

Gauging the online ‘snacking’ search trends during coronavirus

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

‘Snack delivery’ searches have increased by 83%, mirroring the increased needs of those working from home and in isolation. Pics: GettyImages/choochart choochaikupt/Polyudova_Yulia
‘Snack delivery’ searches have increased by 83%, mirroring the increased needs of those working from home and in isolation. Pics: GettyImages/choochart choochaikupt/Polyudova_Yulia

Related tags: Salience, coronavirus, ecommerce, Health and wellness, Protein, vegan, plant-based, snack delivery, snack subscription

Under ‘normal’ conditions, consumer habits shift at a rapid pace, but factor in a global pandemic and things change really quickly. Keeping on top of these changes is a challenging conundrum for brands to solve. Rhys Owen-Johnson, a marketer at Salience, investigates.
rhys
Rhys Owen-Johnson

Salience regularly monitors various food verticals in our free annual industry reports, but obviously coronavirus has somewhat shortened the time it takes for the market to change. Here are some of the changes in online search trends that we’ve found since the outbreak.

Covid-19’s impact

In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, life is unrecognisable compared to last year. The high streets have emptied, putting many sectors on hiatus, changing the way we shop. The snack industry has continued trading, supplying supermarket shelves and online stores. Social distancing and self-isolation can be lonely work and shoppers are progressively taking to the internet to get their fix of morale-boosting treats.

Calls to stay indoors have increased the importance of delivery services. This is reflected in online search trends. Prior to the outbreak, ‘home food delivery’ levelled out at 5.4K monthly searches. The term has spiked to 14.8K per month as the pandemic intensifies. ‘Snack delivery’ searches have increased by 83%, mirroring the increased needs of those working from home and in isolation.

The Consumer Trusts Insights Council has identified ‘guilty pleasure’ snacks being a common coping mechanism being deployed during these unprecedented times. Its consumer data notes a 50% year-on-year increase in the sales of cookies and salty snacks, as well as a 35% rise in ice cream sales in the US.   

Online shopping

Offline shopping habits are increasingly making their way to the web, with 45% of consumers now shopping for food online. The snack market is no different, with a multitude of ecommerce opportunities popping up across the sector. Understanding which terms have been searched for over the past year gives snack suppliers some useful insight.

The broad search term of ‘snacks’ has seen an increase of 82% over the past 12 months, drawing in 301K monthly searches. Digging deeper, searches for ‘cereal bars’ have jumped by 22% to 27K searches, while queries for ‘popcorn’ and ‘cakes’ have doubled.

Elevated online interest in snacks presents an opening for suppliers if the past 12 months are anything to go by.   

Snack subscriptions

Snack subscription boxes are a new frontier in the snacking world, delivering craving-fixers right to your doorstep. Adopted by flagship brands such as Graze, the service has increased in popularity over the past 12 months. Particularly in these testing times, a sweet (or savoury) monthly pick-me-up is most welcome, as evidenced by an 85% yearly increase in searches for ‘snack subscription’.

In terms of visibility, the past year has seen a 16% decrease in the size of the online market. Graze, too, has taken a hit… to the tune of 24%. Perhaps there’s room for a new big fish moving forward. New kids on the block, such as eatleancheese.co.uk with a 260% increase, could well upset the applecart.

Plant-Based and vegan

The vegan lifestyle is here to stay, and over the past year, many more ‘free from’ products have entered the market to cater to the needs of plant-based consumers. The appeal of sustainable snacking is evident in search patterns, with searches of ‘plant-based snacks’ rising by 90% over the past 12 months.

As the vegan revolution gathers steam, snack producers have responded, creating versions of their snacks without animal products. There’s also a greater emphasis on natural foods such as nuts and fruit. Brands like Nakd and Hippeas have increased in prominence over the past year, producing treats with a story like cruelty-free snack bars.

Giving sugar the elbow

Health and wellbeing are hot topics and more consumers are leaning towards waistline-friendly snacking options. Between low-carb foods and protein-packed snacks, the average consumer is becoming more nutritionally focused, shunning sugar for natural treats. Sugar-free snacks are on the rise, earning 481k searches.

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