Flavour innovation is central to keeping users engaged with brands in the crisps, savoury snacks and nuts market, as shown by 40% of eaters and buyers agreeing that a brand that regularly brings out new flavours of savoury snacks is more appealing than one which does not. This includes exploring a wider range of world cuisine flavours to prevent users switching to brands innovating more in this area.

The COVID-19 pandemic and people snacking more at home boosted retail sales of crisps, savoury snacks and nuts in 2020, with value sales reaching nearly £4.47 billion, up 4% on 2019. Volume sales posted stronger growth of 5%, as purchasing shifted towards sharing bags and multipacks and away from higher-value single packs. The new wave of lockdowns in 2021 will support more snacking at home.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a heightened spotlight on health, while the government’s plans to tackle obesity include putting in place legislation to end volume price promotions of foods high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS). Despite volume sales increasing in 2020, 50% of eaters claim to have cut back on these items in the last 12 months, highlighting how healthy eating is on their minds.

The spotlight on health dials up the need for brands to explore better-for-you products. While healthier crisps/crisp-style snacks are seen as not enough of a treat by 36% of category users, this being a minority view suggests that most are open to being swayed by healthier options. Savoury snacks made from pulses hold potential here, appealing to 44% of eaters and buyers of crisp, savoury snacks and nuts.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • The impact of COVID-19 on sales of crisps, savoury snacks and nuts, and consumer behaviours.

  • Frequency of eating crisps, savoury snacks and nuts, and types eaten.

  • Different occasions for eating crisps, savoury snacks and nuts.

  • New launch activity in crisps, savoury snacks and nuts, and perceptions and usage of the brands in these categories.

  • Behaviours related to eating crisps, savoury snacks and nuts, and attitudes towards them.

COVID-19: market context

The first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the UK at the end of January 2020, with a small number of cases in February. As the case level rose, the government ordered the closure of non-essential stores on 20 March. 

A wider lockdown requiring people to stay at home except for essential shopping, exercise and work ‘if absolutely necessary’ followed on 23 March. It wasn’t until 15 June that non-essential stores were allowed to re-open, followed by pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers on 4 July, and many beauty businesses on 13 July.

By September, it had become clear that the UK was at the start of a second wave, and social distancing measures were intensified. Continued increases in infection numbers led to Wales implementing a two-week national lockdown from 19 October, England announcing a month-long lockdown from 5 November, and Scotland introducing a new five-level system of coronavirus restrictions. 

Despite these restrictions, however, case numbers continued to increase. All four UK nations tightened restrictions in January 2021, effectively leading to a full UK-wide lockdown. There is no defined end date for the lockdown, although the legislation regarding the English lockdown that was presented to Parliament extends to 31 March.

The UK’s vaccination programme started on 8 December 2020, and with both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines licenced for use in the UK, the government aims to offer a vaccine to 15 million people by mid-February.

Economic and other assumptions

Mintel’s economic assumptions are based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s central scenario included in its November 2020 Fiscal Sustainability Report. The scenario suggests that UK GDP will have fallen by 11.3% in 2020, recovering by 5.5% in 2021, and 6.6% in 2022. GDP isn’t expected to return to pre-COVID levels until the fourth quarter of 2022. The central scenario has unemployment peaking at 7.5% in Q2 2021.

The current uncertainty means that there is wide variation on the range of forecasts, however, and this is reflected in the OBR’s own scenarios. In its upside scenario, economic activity returns to pre-COVID-19 levels by Q4 2021. Its more negative scenario, by contrast, would mean that GDP doesn’t recover until Q3 2024.

The second wave of infections and subsequent lockdowns means that the short-term prospects for the country are consistent with the OBR’s negative scenario, but this needs to be balanced against the fact that the vaccine rollout is ahead of even the OBR’s central scenario. Medium-to-long-term, then, we are still basing our forecasts and market analysis on the OBR’s central economic scenario.

Products covered in this Report

This Report examines the UK retail market for crisps, nuts and other savoury snacks. The market size includes products sold through the retail channel, including:

  • Chips/crisps – fried slices of potato or other vegetables, or fried or dried slices of fruits

  • Nuts

  • Baked snacks – savoury snacks prepared by baking, such as pretzels, baked chips (eg Walkers Oven Baked) and Mini Cheddars

  • Popcorn (excluding that sold in cinemas)

  • Potato- and grain-based snacks includes any products made from small pieces of potato, wheat, rice, corn or other base ingredient, including extruded (eg Hula Hoops); excludes large rice cakes

  • Meat snacks (such as snack-sized salami, eg Peperami).

The market size excludes unpackaged products, savoury biscuits/crispbreads/cake bars and nuts specifically marketed for use in cooking/baking. It also excludes sales via catering or foodservice establishments; however, references and comparisons to these sectors may be made where relevant.

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