Consumers aren’t letting a little thing like inflation come between them and the snacks they love. According to IRI, for the calendar year ended Jan. 1, 2023, the convenience store channel recorded salty snack sales of just over $7 billion, a 17.1% increase. At the same time, the average unit price over the previous year was up 14%.
- Snack bars, granola bars and clusters recorded sales of nearly $819 million, up 9.5%, while the average unit price was up by 11.9%.
- Snack nuts, seeds and corn nuts saw sales of $939 million, a gain of 4.3%, while unit sales rose by 9.4%.
- Dried meat snack sales were $2.2 billion, up 0.3%, while unit price rose 7.4%.
“Inflation is real, and so is pressure on income,” said Anne-Marie Roerink, the principal and founder of 210 Analytics in San Antonio, which specializes in quantitative and qualitative market research. “Snacks have increased 12.6% in the average price-per volume in the past year. This is in line with the price increases we’ve seen in the rest of the store across all foods and beverages.”
While this is a substantial increase, most snacks remain an affordable item, certainly when compared to those bought at retail versus those bought in foodservice.
“This is an area where convenience stores are at a bit of a disadvantage,” Roerink suggested. “Because of the convenience nature of the trip and the constraints on space, prices tend to be a bit higher than in formats such as supercenters or club stores. However, c-stores have gotten quite creative with tying promotions in to gasoline prices or creating bundles.”
As seen in other categories, Roerink pointed out, there is no linear way to predict snack choices. “For the same exact household, or sometimes even the same exact shopping basket, we’ll see ultra-value items and premium choices. We see health-focused items and pure indulgence items.”
An important observation is that conventional snacks still account for the vast majority of sales, yet the industry sees that most of the innovation dollars are spent going after more niche areas.
“I think there is opportunity to continue to innovate in conventional snacking, whether pack size, packaging innovations, flavors, new textures, etc.,” said Roerink. “Younger generations especially love snack adventures.”
Limited-time flavors, unexpected flavor combinations, new textures, new brands or line extensions of familiar ones, she added, can all prove successful.