The state of the snack industry is strong and vibrant, but there is plenty of room to grow if snack makers respond with products, packaging, advertising and in-store merchandising that meet the needs of today’s dynamic on-the-go consumer. This was a key message offered at SNAXPO 2014’s opening session on Monday, March 3, by Sally Lyons-Wyatt, executive and general manager, client insights, IRI, as she presented the 2014 Snack Food State of the Industry Report. Sponsored by the Arlington, Va.-based Snack Food Association (SFA), this year’s SNAXPO was held March 1-4 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and the Omni Dallas Hotel.

Sally Lyons-Wyatt, general manager, client insights, SymphonyIRI Group

With core snack sales last year outpacing consumer packaged goods (CPG) sales by 2.9% to 1.6%, Wyatt stressed the impact of today’s busy consumer, who is increasingly eating more frequent, but smaller, meals throughout the day. While indulgent snack sales are still strong, she said sales of healthier-for-you snacks are continuing to increase.

Wyatt advised snack manufacturers to take advantage of all day parts, tailoring products to the types of occasions they wish to target, from early morning to late at night, keeping in mind the snacking habits of age groups and other demographics.

“Try really hard not to treat all consumers the same,” she advised. “If you are trying to innovate and attract consumers who go to quick serve restaurants, for example, go to the demographic groups who go there.”

Increasing numbers of health-conscious consumers are paying close attention to health claims on packages, with healthier categories like yogurt, nutritional snacks and trail mixes, and carob/yogurt coated snacks showing exceptional growth. Overall, 62% of healthier snack categories grew volume sales, Wyatt said.

However, the industry analyst, who was presenting her ninth consecutive SOI report at SNAXPO, cautioned there is plenty of action on indulgent snacks, noting that 68% of consumers look for snacks that are fun to eat. Some leaders, she said, include chocolate-covered salt snacks, up 15.2%; dried meat snacks, up 4.6%; and frozen, handheld non-breakfast entrees, up 3.4%.

While Wyatt advised companies to leverage social media as well as other forms of advertising, she stressed the importance of in-store merchandising. “Tout it in-store,” she said. “If it’s about indulgent, that’s OK, but getting the message in-store is absolutely essential.”

Source: Snack Food Association