Potato Chips Continue Reign Over Salty Snacks

potatochipsEven with the health and wellness trend continuing, consumers are still reaching for bags of potato chips in large numbers, which is good news for c-store retailers.

Technomic, in its March Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend report noted that consumers are snacking significantly more now compared to 2010, with 48% of consumers polled saying they’re now snacking at least twice a day, compared to 25% in 2010. In 2013, expect consumers to continue their craving for snacks.

In fact, potato chip sales are projected to reach $11.2 billion by 2015, with tortilla chips reaching an estimated $7 billion, according to BMC Information services, a division of Beverage Marketing Corp. The Snack Food Association, supported by SymphonyIRI data, noted that constant innovation in the chips category continues to solidify potato chips’ spot as America’s most popular salty snack.

Potato chips brought in $1.36 billion in sales in 2012, according to SymphonyIRI convenience store data for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 30, 2012, up 5.50% from the previous year. Frito Lay brands were among the best sellers with Lay’s potato chips ringing up more than $440 million in sales, up 7.53%; and No. 2 brand Ruffles drawing $215.9 million in sales, down a slight 2.70% compared to the previous year.

Natural chips have also been in demand. According to SymphonyIRI, Lay’s Natural sales were up 228.9% for the 52 weeks ended March 18, 2012 and Ruffles Natural sales grew 314.5% in the same period.  Tortilla chips were up 7.33% for the same period, with $714.75 million in sales.

“People are very interested in new flavors. A lot of the mixture flavors are working. Frito Lay has come out with the Collisions line, which has been selling well. Spicy seems to be in demand as well,” said Robert Perkins, vice president of marketing for Rutters.  

Increased Flavor Profile
In 2013, look for ethnic flavor trends to continue, especially Hispanic-inspired flavors, said John Rodwan, an analyst for BMC. “The big trend beyond that is a reduction in salt, which is a big issue across all snack food, but especially in chips and crackers.”

Of course, what customers say they want and what they actually purchase can be different. Perkins said that while be believes customers are aware of and considering the reduced sodium and healthy trends, they’re not necessarily showing that demand with their purchasing power just yet. “More people are looking at it.  I don’t know that they want it, but they’re aware of it. Our sales trends still don’t show that’s where they’re moving toward.”   

Salty Snacks
The salty snacks category overall fared well in 2012, up 6.19% from the previous year with $4.11 billion in dollar sales for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 31, 2012, according to SymphonyIRI. Pretzels grew by 12.32% for the same period with dollar sales of $214.57 million. Cheese snacks out sold pretzels with $448.73 million in sales, but were down 2.16% from the previous year.

When it comes to salty snacks, “Customers are always looking for a change,” Perkins said. “So be prepared with a wide variety of products.”

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