Market leader Walkers estimates the total market at around £2.1bn with negligible growth of 0.1% (52 w/e 21 April 2002), its figures based upon Information Resources, plus other sources. Golden Wonder endorses the flat growth rate, but puts the market at £2.2bn (IR figures, plus others), while KP Snacks estimates it at nearly £1.8bn. That no-one can agree is due to the substantial impulse element of the market which is difficult to measure with any accuracy. TNS Superpanel, however, estimates the take home bagged snacks market at £1.2bn, up 4% in value over the past year. There is accord, though, on the reason for the market's overall lacklustre performance. "It's due to falling impulse sales," says Angus Maciver, vice-president of Walkers' insights team which covers consumer research and category management. "Impulse sales have been under pressure because of store closures and the success of multipacks in the multiple grocers. Impulse has had a hard time, but it has started to improve in the last few months because major wholesalers such as Booker and Palmer & Harvey McLane are doing a good job getting behind product launches in a big way. We are also working with the independents to offer them deals, such as two Doritos for 39p, to make them more competitive with multiple grocers." Golden Wonder believes one reason impulse sales are falling is because independents need to improve ranging, availability and visibility. "The multiples have got it right, and the independents need to take some big learnings from them to make sure beacon brands are visible and the category is continually on sale," says category marketing director Kirsty Taylor. Both companies believe children ­ big impulse purchasers of bagged snacks ­ are spending their pocket money differently. GW has just finished researching children's aspirations and lifestyles to get a picture of what they are spending on generally, as well as snacking, and will shortly have conclusions. Taylor says: "We also think children are increasingly likely to be taking bagged snacks from home to the detriment of impulse sales because of the growth of multipacks in grocery." Certainly, take home is very buoyant. TNS Superpanel values this chunk of the market at £1.2bn and growing 4%, with volume up 3% (52 w/e 28 April 2002). The aggressive price battle between Asda and Tesco, which has seen a six pack of Walkers crisps slashed to 96p (from £1.09 two years ago), plus Safeway's high/low strategy, has pushed up multipack sales. So, too, has the increase in volume sold on promotion, which now averages 35%-40%. Walkers sells 40% of volume on promotion, and reckons GW and KP Snacks average 60% a year. Promotions are also being marketed more visibly than they were, which is also driving sales. Walkers is, without doubt, the star performer, having had a spectacular 12 months in which its overall volume share has increased 2% to 39.2% ­ 62.8% in crisps and 30.9% in snacks (IR 52 w/e 21 April 2002) ­ and has had considerable success with a number of launches. GW has lost ground slightly, its total volume share now standing at 7.4%, while KP Snacks has gained fractionally to 17.1% share. Procter & Gamble's Pringles is flat at 7.5% volume (IR). Walkers' Maciver predicts the widespread trend to snacking will keep the bagged snacks category in 2% volume growth year-on-year to 2021. "Bagged snack consumption is well established among younger consumers and they will take their snacking habits with them as they get older," says Maciver. "We see premium, healthy eating and sharing as the big growth areas for the future and the ones we are concentrating on developing. "Premium is a trend throughout grocery, which is why we introduced Sensations in April which is positioned as a premium product with mainstream pricing. Sensations' sales have been fantastic. In the first two months of its launch, its grocery sales were double that of Kettle, its nearest competitor, and it has gained 4.6% impulse/2.9% grocery volume share." Of the five flavours, oven roasted chicken and thyme is the bestseller, hotly pursued by Thai sweet chili. More flavours will be launched, says Maciver. Further stages of Sensations' £9m marketing campaign will be run later in the year. On the healthy eating front, where Walkers has nearly half of the better for you' sector, reduced fat Lites was relaunched in January using a lower fat cooking oil and has seen sales increase by nearly 45% in volume (IR). Sharing, or evening snacking, which Walkers pioneered with the Doritos range, is now the fastest growing segment in the market with a value of £220m. "It continues to be a huge opportunity because people are increasingly using their homes as an entertainment centre, particularly affluent consumers where most growth comes from," says Maciver. Doritos' growth continues to be spectacular ­ over 100% in impulse for the snacks, and 48% overall for Dippas in the last year, according to Walkers. To keep the pace going, the company is spending £12m on the brand this year, which includes a new pizza flavour, new packaging and the current Friendchips TV campaign. Walkers has been just as busy in other areas of its portfolio. Its collaboration last year with Heinz to produce Heinz Tomato Ketchup Flavour Crisps resulted in Walker's fifth bestselling flavour and has been carried through into Branston and Marmite flavour limited editions ­ both exceeding volume expectations, says Maciver ­ with a Coronation Chicken limited edition making its debut for the Jubilee. In the children's market it has moved 3D's away from Doritos, relaunching it under the Walkers' banner, and introduced Footballs in January to build on World Cup fever. Maciver insists all this activity is merely the tip of the iceberg. "The end of the year will be just as busy as the beginning, while plans for next year will be even bigger," he says. Faced with such stiff competition, the other major players have been fighting back with a raft of innovations and relaunches. GW has just repackaged its Golden Lights reduced fat crisp using photographic food images to position it as a premium healthy adult snack targeted at women. In the last year sales had fallen slightly against competition from Walkers' Lites and Quakers' Snack-a-Jacks. Youth brand Nik Naks has been signed up to sponsor former Black Sabbath rock star Ozzy Osbourne's new family documentary series on MTV. GW's Taylor believes it is a real coup. "The series is quirky, exuberant, with real youth appeal, just like Nik Naks, and has been a massive hit in the US. We expect its success to be repeated here." GW's biggest success, however, is Bugles, a General Mills corn snack which, Taylor says, has become the 13th largest snack brand since its national launch last October. "We've given it TV advertising and sampling and are back on TV in July with a £3.5m campaign," says Taylor. "We're continuing to put a lot of investment behind it to make it a core performer." Of three varieties, BBQ is the bestseller. GW is also investing £5.3m in a TV and poster campaign for its crisps, and is moving into the fruit snacking arena with the launch of Fruit Wonders in July. The four varieties include yogurt coated raisins in two flavours and fruit purée-filled cereal bites in raspberry and lemon & lime favours. KP Snacks is also putting a lot of investment into its brands. Two new flavours have just been added to Skips to reinvigorate the brand which fell 22% last year (IR 52 w/e 21 April 2002). The launch is being supported by a £4m TV and marketing campaign. The Hula Hoops range has recently been extended with Shoks ­ mini hoops in a colourful foil cube for impulse sale and aimed at the youth market ­ which marketing director Mandy Ferguson anticipates will reach sales of £10m in its first year. The core brand was redesigned in February for character play appeal', says Ferguson, and the entire range is getting an £8m media spend this year. KP's biggest success, the Real McCoys, whose sales rose a further 23% (IR 52 w/e 21 April 2002) is returning to TV after an absence of several years, with a £2.5m campaign. Phileas Fogg, which Ferguson admits was tired and dated', has just had an overhaul with new packaging featuring photographs of exotic locations connected with the varieties, plus new flavours and a new name for the brand, the Phileas Fogg Co. Ferguson says trade response has been excellent, and new listings gained. Of the other players in the market, Kettle Chips claims to be one of the fastest growing in adult snacks, with sales rising 21% to £35m in last year (AC Nielsen). Latest in its range of Seasonal Editions is African Barbecue, which the company expects to be a top seller, while in August it will launch Jersey Royals, the first potato crisp to be made from the renowned potato variety. The company hopes it will match the success of Natural Reds, the first in its Specials range, which uses a variety of vividly coloured potatoes exclusive to Kettle Chips. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}