By: Zhane Isom | May 7, 2024

Retailers are keeping tabs on new snack trends and inflation pressures as they look to enhance their snack aisles.

The sweet, salty and meat snack categories continue to perform well at convenience stores despite inflation’s tight hold on these segments.

Salty snacks, for instance, have been a hit in the snack aisle, ringing in at $45.1 billion in dollar sales, a 4.5% increase for the 52 weeks ending March 16, according to NielsenIQ (NIQ).

Worcester, Mass.-based Nouria, with 175 locations throughout New England, expects its salty snack category to increase by 4%, as stated by Meghann Eaton, category manager at Nouria.

“Salty snack growth is coming from better-for-you options, added protein and cleaner ingredients,” she said.

Sweet snacks have also seen slight growth in dollar sales at $9.23 billion, a 1.8% increase, even as it decreased 6% in unit sales for the 52 weeks ending March 16, per NIQ.

Eaton has forecasted a 6% increase in sales for the sweet snack category, especially considering Nouria’s fresh My Nouria line of pastries, cakes, cookies, muffins and brownies.

However, meat snacks have been feeling the effects of inflation the most when it comes to unit sales but continue to do well in c-stores.

Meat snacks dropped 6.3% in unit sales for the 52 weeks that ended March 16, noted NIQ, while its dollar sales held steady with a 0.8% decrease for the same period.

Snack Trends to Watch

The inflation impact, while worth observing, is not stopping consumers from buying their favorite snacks. Consumers are still looking to try new flavors, trending snacks from social media and healthier options.

“Bold new flavors continue to be big wins within these categories, especially within salty snacks,” said Cameron Baer, center store category manager for Rutter’s, which has 85 sites throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia. “Both bold and spicy flavors continue to be the leader in 2024.”

Retailers have been seeing bold new flavor trends with meat snacks, as well.

“Shoppers want hot and spicy flavors in their meat snacks. Wild River Jerky and No Man’s Land Jerky are growing in popularity as ‘old-fashioned’ jerky that offer a longer-lasting flavor,” said Randy Demster, buyer for the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES). AAFES exclusively serves U.S. military personnel and their families on bases around the world.

Keeping these trends in mind, retailers are rearranging their snack sections while thinking of new ways to fight inflation.

Like Nouria, Rutter’s customers are looking for better-for-you snack options, in addition to value and flavor innovation.

“All of these are top of mind when planning assortment and promotions in 2024,” said Baer. “We are not in the business of simply continuing what we have been doing. It is important to introduce some of these new offerings and flavors.”

With retailers offering deals and promotions, consumers are able to continue buying their favorite snacks while staying within their budget.

“Costs are up everywhere, so innovation and promotions that cause excitement are key to all categories this year,” said Eaton. “Consumers are wanting deals within the category while satisfying more than one need at once. They want salty and protein, sweet and fresh, and quality and price.”

Regarding meat snacks, consumers are continuing to change the way they purchase these products to help deal with inflation. At Rutter’s, for instance, customers have been moving from bags to sticks.

“Much of this is related to price sensitivity from the consumer as bagged products have continued to rise,” said Baer. “This makes pricing and promotion much more important within this category.”

Looking Ahead

As 2024 continues, retailers are willing to think outside the box to keep sweet, salty and meat snack sales up and further engage their customers who purchase these products.

“We are currently looking into brands that have a mission like Veteran owned, giving back to local heroes, supporting local communities or helping protect our environment,” said Eaton.

“The Exchange is looking at multipack meat snacks as a growth opportunity. Shoppers are looking for individually packed meat snacks that are low calorie,” added Demster. “We are adding new products for our planograms such as mini cannisters with new flavors from Frito-Lay, Rap Snacks, Planters and Hippeas.”

Jaco Oil Co.’s Fastrip Food Stores, which has 55 locations in California and Arizona, has even gone as far as working on adding new racking inside the stores while ramping up promotional activity, noted Fred Faulkner, director of sales and marketing at Jaco Oil Co.

Rutter’s, too, has been working to drive even deeper discounts for its customers.

“Meat snacks especially have experienced a lot of pricing action over the last few years, so we are working to provide promos to get these products to our customers at a discounted rate,” said Baer.

Source: CStore Decisions