Consumers are being bombarded with ‘better-for-you’ snack options as manufacturers seek to provide healthier products. Lisa Riley reports

Crisps, nuts and bagged snacks manufacturers have had to step up their game in recent years as a direct response to the nation’s love affair with healthier snacking products.
The snacking industry as a whole has taken plenty of flak in the past year over its perceived contribution to the UK’s obesity crisis.
The result is that consumers have been bombarded with better-for-you snacks and manufacturers are keen to promote any health credentials associated with their products.
The industry has made changes to salt and fat content and portion control, particularly when it comes to crisps, and the flurry of health-orientated activity looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.
“Health scares appear regularly in the press,” says Rob Murray, marketing director at Ryvita. “Concerns over obesity remain front-of-mind and there is increased interest in the nutritional value of products. It is inevitable that a rising number of brands are focusing new product development on healthier eating.”
Yet, despite the industry’s best efforts, more needs to be done to raise the healthy profile of snacks, as the category as a whole has failed to achieve growth.
Total crisps, nuts and bagged snacks sales dropped 0.4% in the latest year, with the sector now valued at £1.3bn [TNS 52 w/e February 27, 2005]. Savoury snacks was the biggest loser with a decline in sales of more than 4% in value, while crisps fell by 0.4%.
The turn of fortune for the overall market is partly down to weak performance from the multipack format, which accounts for 60% of value in the category [TNS 52 w/e February 27, 2005].
Multipacks’ frequency of purchase is down by 4% year-on-year, according to TNS, driven partly by the out-of-stock issue at Sainsbury.
One of the more recent products aimed at satisfying the hunger for healthier nibbles and bucking the decline in sales is Hula Hoops Shake 2 Salt, which forms part
of United Biscuits’ ongoing programme of cutting fat and salt content. The newcomer contains a sachet of salt inside the bag so that consumers can add as much as they want.
Ryvita launched Ryvita Minis in August last year, a range specifically designed to appeal to health-conscious consumers.
The only sector to show growth is nuts, helped by perceived health benefits of the products. The category grew by nearly 12% in value year-on-year on the back of a good Christmas.
Sub-sectors, including premium and fruit snacks with their natural health credentials, have also shown impressive growth in the latest year.
Fruit snacks have benefited from healthy eating activity in primary schools, says Sundora Foods. “Younger consumers understand the need to eat a balanced diet, particularly when it comes to snacking,” says commercial director David Brewis.
“We are not naive enough to suggest children will choose a pack of raisins over a bar of chocolate every time, but they are consuming dried fruit snacks more regularly because of what they are taught at school.”
Meanwhile, strong performance from Walkers Sensations has helped boost
the premium sector. To keep the momentum going, Walkers has just introduced Sensations cooked in a blend of oil containg olive oil. The crisps, which come in Lightly Salted, Sun Ripened Tomato & Basil and Mozzarella & Oregano flavours are lower in saturated fat than standard Sensations.
Not to be left out, UBUK unwrapped a £4m marketing support programme for its McCoy’s Specials range of premium ridge-cut crisps, which it launched in March.
With 30% of annual spend going on own label, brands clearly dominate the category, with the exception of nuts, where branded offerings account for 20% [TNS 52 w/e February 27, 2005].