analysis by Sarah Hardcastle - multiples blamed for static value - innovation gathers pace - children keep growing - spice is king Crisps, nuts and bagged snacks is the third biggest market in packaged grocery and right in tune with the big consumer trend towards snacking. So why is it looking so flat? According to TN Sofres Impulse, the £1.4bn market hasn't grown in value at all in the 52 week period ending in April, although volume has gained 4%. Information Resources, which measures a bigger chunk of the market for Walkers, Golden Wonder and KP, gives a slightly more positive picture, estimating it at £1.8bn with 2.5% growth (52 w/e Apr 01). Golden Wonder category marketing controller Kirsty Brett lays the blame for the less than sparkling performance firmly at the door of the multiples' pricing and promotion strategies. "Historically, growth has been driven by grocery but now saturation point has been reached in terms of volume that can be sold on promotion and value is flat because of it. But it's an improvement on six months ago when value was in decline because of promotional mechanisms like EDLP," says Brett. "The multiples have recognised that such activity is taking value out of the market and since Christmas have moved back to high/low strategies, such as three for two. This is driving weight of purchase and putting more value back into the category. "What's not changing, however, is the amount of volume sold on deal, which is very high and growing," says Brett. In contrast, the impulse sector has done significantly better, up 9% in value over the same period, largely because there are fewer deals. "It's also benefited from the major brands above the line support over the year," adds Brett. The four big brands are Walkers, which has gained share to 43%, KP (13%), Golden Wonder (7.6%) and Pringles, which is losing share because of lower investment by Procter & Gamble. Golden Wonder's brand leading position is testimony to the importance of continual investment. In the last year its sales have increased 9.4% overall, driven by the success of such launches as Doritos Dippas (up 35%) plus a raft of high profile promotions and advertising campaigns. The most notable of these are its Free Books for Schools promotion, which has resulted in more than seven million books being given to schools, and its hugely successful crisps advertising campaign with sports personality Gary Lineker. This year it has stepped up its launch programme and support budget, along with Golden Wonder, KP and other players, to capitalise on the market's main growth areas. The evergreen one is children's, the biggest consumers of corn and extruded snacks. Though innovation is important in this sector ­ and this year's include Walkers launch of Funyons, KP's Skips redesign, and Red Mill's imminent relaunch of Transform a Snack ­ on-pack promotions are the driving force behind sales. This year's include Walker's Pokemon on all kids' snacks and KP's Digimon and Beano comic link up on Skips. Strong, spicy flavours are rapidly gaining ground in the market. Significant launches include KP's McCoys Spice, Hula Hoops XL in curry, nacho cheese and chilli flavours and Mini Cheddars' tangy salsa variant, plus Golden Wonder's Nice N'Spicy crisps and Kettle Chips jalapeno chilli with ginger. The breakdown of traditional meal patterns has accelerated snacking throughout the day and evening, and the growth of larger bags for light meals and sharing at home. Walkers has set the pace here with Doritos Dippas and is putting £12m behind the brand this year to grow the "chip and dip" evening snacking sector. Mission Foods is targeting the sharing sector with its 200g/400g tortilla chips in three flavours. KP marketing director Mandy Ferguson says the implications are wider. "It's hunger-fill. People want more filling snacks in and out of the home. We see opportunities for adult lunchboxes." The adult and premium sectors are among the most buoyant in the whole market. Kettle Chips says its sales of its additive-free crisps, which come in such sophisticated flavours as mature cheddar & burgundy and sea salt rosemary & garlic, have grown 50% in the last two years. Jordans says its Oven Baked Chips are gaining ground because they are not fried, and are 85% fat free. Union Snack is seeing substantial growth for its baked snack mixes, such as breadsticks and mini crackers, a trend which comes from the US, it says. Sales of its Penn State pretzels have also been dramatic, up 77% in the first four months of this year. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}