The definition of a snack is “a portion of food, smaller than a regular meal, generally eaten between meals” and I think it is interesting to look at how snacking has evolved.
Traditionally snacks were something prepared from ingredients, leftovers or a simple sandwich. We then saw a shift to snacks being predominately ‘unhealthy’ for several reasons including high sugar, fat or salt content. Now we can access most things our taste buds desire from dried fruits and nuts to popcorn, crisps and rice cakes, even protein based snacks such as biltong and seaweed; the list is almost endless.
The snacking category is so fast moving that another product or concept could easily have been introduced to the market whilst I’ve been covering this topic. I have good experience and knowledge of the ‘healthier snacking’ sector which did, and still does, appeal to me personally; hence the reason that the brand I founded was a healthier crisp (Scrubbys Vegetable Crisps).
The sector is becoming ever more crowded and now, more than ever, we have an abundance of snacking options at our disposal. I am sure that you, like me, have noticed the vast expansion of these type of products; certainly a handful of years ago ‘healthier snacking’ options did not have their own category.
I think we can now pretty much say that snacking in the UK has become the ‘norm’ and is a regular, everyday occurrence for most people. We can however see a shift from consumers, manufacturers and retailers alike to giving health aspects greater consideration; this plays a significant role in the market with 70% of us (who regularly eat snacks) saying that cutting down on snacking is an easy way to reduce calorie intake. For this reason, ‘happy snacking’ is a key point to address.
By using sophisticated data and analysis, many manufacturers and retailers are able to react to the ever-increasing demands of the consumer. I read recently of the inspiring journey of Graze, a snack maker that launched as an online-only subscription service in 2008 and has now grown to a business worth £68m. I think it’s fair to say that if they weren’t so switched on and in tune with their consumers, this wouldn’t be the case. The diversity of their range alone further supports the fast-moving nature of the sector.
I remember working in an office when Graze first came on my radar. Those tiny snack pots were genius (although they never did last the four days they were supposed to!). It was evident that these were a game changer and there are now numerous other brands to choose from.
I think a transformation for these little ‘snack-pots’ came when, in 2014, Tesco introduced a ban on all sweets at their checkouts. A move closely followed by Lidl, Aldi, Morrison’s and Marks & Spencer, with Boots doing the same earlier this year. We can now pick up delicious Graze snack-pots at most supermarket checkouts, accompanied by an array of other healthier snack options.
Ever since this point, we have witnessed an explosion of alternative snacking options including ‘shots’, ‘sprinkles’ and pots. You can find some delicious combinations with chocolate or chilli, roasted or salted. The options seem almost endless and we, as consumers, are hooked!
Recently as I have been wandering around various supermarkets (which bizarrely I actually enjoy!), I have also noticed the growth in chilled snacking choices with an interesting array of salads, savoury snacks and vegetable juices. When you think how far snacking has come, from the humble sandwich and leftover days, it makes you wonder what new innovations we can expect in the future.
Lastly I think it is interesting to note that the most frequent ‘snackers’ are the younger consumer, which could in part be due to busier lifestyles. So taking all into consideration, it looks as though the snacking sector will continue to evolve.