By: Dawn Letson | Category Manager

More and more Americans are eating and snacking on-the-go every day. It’s not surprising that the salty snack category continues to follow the trend.

Salty Snack Overview
In the convenience channel, we’ve seen the salty category as a whole grow by 5.2% in dollar sales over the prior year. Though we saw a slight decline in trail mix, all of the other segments showed respectable growth, ranging from 3.5% for seeds to 9.7% for ready-to-eat popcorn.

Chips, pretzels and rinds represent almost half of the dollar share for the category. Nuts, seeds and trail mix combined make up about 30% of the sales, while other salty snacks generate a little over 22% of the dollar volume for the category. It is important to take this into account when allocating space and the SKU count in the set.

Nuts, Seeds and Trail Mix
Consumers today are looking for more protein and more plant-based foods to add to their diets. According to NPD, 61% of consumers say they want more protein and 54% are looking for more plant-based options, which shows in the growth of nuts and seeds in the snacking category. Studies also show that 50% of consumers watch their calorie intake and 72% want less sugar in their diets. Nuts drive about half of this segment with over half the dollar share, while seeds and trail mix go head to head for the rest of the sales.

While it is important to maintain a strong core assortment, innovative flavors and packaging will continue to help this segment grow. BIGS Taco Bell Taco Supreme Sunflower Seeds proved to be the fastest growing seeds in the category in 2019.

If you are in the market for innovation in nuts in 2020, be on the lookout for the new Pop N Pour Nuts and Seeds from Planters.

Chips, Pretzels, Popcorn and Rinds
The largest segment in the salty set: chips, pretzels and rinds, represents a 44.7% share with 5.6% growth over prior year, according the most recent IRI data. Traditional core flavors like cheese, BBQ and chili, along with some of the hot flavor profiles that have emerged over the last few years, remain top sellers in the category.

Like 2019, 2020 will be a year for innovation in flavor. The innovation in product development such as exotic flavors mixed with salty, savory, spicy and sweet are the various factors driving the market. Social media brand presence continues to the grow awareness and interest in different flavor combinations. Pringles is once again bringing new flavors like parmesan roasted garlic and rotisserie chicken to the shelf. Slim Jim is not just a meat stick anymore. You can now get Slim Jim Fire Fries and Pork Rinds in the salty aisle for those seeking a lower carb option. Another item to take notice of is Dot’s Pretzels, a new emerging brand in the pretzel segment.

Other Salty Snacks
Other salty snacks like Combos, Cheez Its, Chex Mix and Bugles round out the salty category. At 22% of the dollar share in salty, these well-known snack brands are an important part of the category. Similar to the other segments, maintaining the core assortment is the key to driving sales. It’s becoming more and more important to maintain the core assortment with the right amount of innovation to keep driving consumers down the salty aisle. Notable innovation this year includes Chex Mix Max’d and a line extension on last year’s big bet on Cheez-It Snap’d, adding a sour cream and onion flavor in 2020. We’ve also seen some expansion in the traditional Cheez-It line up with the launch of Extra Cheesy and Extra Toasty that are sure to drive sales in the category.

Better For You and Big Bag Strategies
The healthy snacking trend is positioned to continue in 2020 as consumers continue to look for clean labels, fewer ingredients, less sugar and less processed foods. Because of limited space in the traditional convenience store format, it is sometimes more beneficial to incorporate these healthier items into existing sets, rather than trying to create a separate section. Putting the right healthy options into core sets also increases visibility and gives the shopper more options. Some notable new better for you items in the salty category tend to follow the keto trend: pork rinds, cheese crisps and snacking pickles.

It’s also important to consider some larger bag options when it comes to chips and other salty items. With the growth that we’ve seen in the meat snack category over the last couple of years being driven by bigger bags, there is an opportunity to trade up to larger sized bags of chips and other warehouse-delivered salty snacks as well.

IRI, Total US Convenience, latest 52 weeks, ending 12/29/19

NPD Eating Data, 2019

ConAgra Multiple Forces Assessment 2018 New Hope Network, Transformation of the American Meal, Health + Wellness report.

IRI, C-Store, L52wk ending 7/21/19

McLane MPulse, Q4 2019