Relying on convenience simply won& 't cut the mustard in the impulse sector in 2006. Consumers are now more experimental and demand functional benefits, new tastes and textures.
Gillian McKeith and Jamie Oliver are responsible for the dramatic change in impulse snacking habits, according to David Smith, marketing director at Whitworths, which recently launched a revamped range of dried fruit, nuts and seeds. Smith has high hopes for the healthy impulse category: "The dried fruit snack market value will double in the next two years, and seeds and nuts will more than double in the next 18 months."
William Chase, founder and owner of crisp company Tyrrells, is also optimistic about fruity snacks. He says sales of its Natural Apple Chips and Cinnamon Apple Chips in Waitrose have exceeded expectations.
Smith believes the dull image of nuts and fruit is being changed thanks to better-for-you messages such as the high Omega-3 content of certain nuts. "Manufacturers should drive ultra-premium by using unusual fruits and flavours," he adds.
United Biscuits plans to boost the profile of its KP Nuts range by encouraging consumer trial and educating consumers about health benefits via front-of-pack labelling. The company has also launched a premium range of sharing bags and 'handypacks'.
Impulse shoppers are now trying out more meat snacks. Traditionally dominated by products such as Peperami, the male-oriented snack category is experiencing something of a renaissance.
Ernst Sattler, MD for Europe at beef jerky company Jack Links, believes his company's range of beef jerky and beef steak nuggets will invigorate the UK meat snacks market, which he estimates is worth more than £50m, with beef jerky valued at about £2m.
There is also a burgeoning opportunity for bread-based impulse snacks. Despite a lack of NPD activity in recent years, buyers are starting to consider bakery options with a perceived healthier feel.
Tyrrells is already on the case, this month launching a bread stick range in Sweet Thai Chilli and Sour Cream & Chive flavours in 35g bags.