Although an unprecedented summer approaches, snacks still rule, says US Snack Index

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Pic: Frito-Lay
Pic: Frito-Lay

Related tags PepsiCo Frito-Lay US Snack Index coronavirus Snacks ecommerce purchasing decisions Cheetos Iri

The majority of Americans anticipate a very different summer compared to last year due to the coronavirus pandemic – but snacking will remain a constant.

According to Frito-Lay’s latest edition of its US Snack Index, the outbreak-enforced travel and social distancing measure means many consumers are expecting to virtually hangout with friends over the next few month.

The pandemic has also changed consumers’ purchasing behaviour – with many increasingly buying through new channels.

However, despite the many differences, snacks are in big demand, particularly as favourite treats are associated with some level of normalcy.

According to the Index, 85% of respondents said eating their favourite snack makes them feel normal; 83% said it reminds them of good times and 48% said it makes them happy.

IRI retail sales data shows salty snacks have been the No. 1 food item that has contributed to sales growth at retailers since early March when consumers had to shift purchasing priorities amid stay-at-home orders. The PepsiCo-owned snack brand saw the same demand, with sales data for Lays up by 32% and Tostitos up 42%, while Cheetos Popcorn contributed to 65% of the ready-to-eat popcorn category.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, what we eat, where we buy and how we engage with one another has shifted dramatically, and we’ve had to reorient our business to address this,”​ said Steven Williams, CEO, PepsiCo Foods North America.

“Our ability to remain agile at the most critical time has enabled us to successfully meet consumer demand.”

The new ‘normal’

The US Snack Index also revealed that 92% of American plan to continue devouring their favourite snacks once the pandemic is over. Most said they are still willing to try new snacks, with Gen Zs and millennials being the most adventurous group (36%).

Convenience is the leading deciding factor when it comes to what snacks people will stock up on for the summer, evident in the rise of purchasing snacks online. IRI data shows snack sales through ecommerce sites are up 44% since March 1.

The global pandemic has further highlighted the need to directly serve consumers – especially as the Index found that 47% claim to have difficulty locating their favourite snacks instore.

With this in mind, Frito-Lay recently launched,​ its first direct-to-consumer offering that allows consumers to purchase their favourite treats and have it shipped directly to their home.

However, although 37% of respondents are stressed at the thought of shopping in store during the pandemic, 74% still largely prefer in-person shopping. IRI data also confirmed this preference for snack purchases, as instore sales of salty and savoury snacks each grew more than 15% in the past eight weeks.

“While summer may be a very different experience for Americans this year, we expect Frito-Lay snacks will be there for consumers in new moments of enjoyment and togetherness,”​ said Williams.

“Our continued focus has been creating smiles with our snacks, even during these challenging times.”

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