The UK snacks sector is coming under increasing pressure from competing markets with sugar and chocolate confectionery particularly hard hit by the consumer desire for a healthier lifestyle, according to a new report from market analysts Mintel.
The report, 'Snacking on the Go', reveals that the value of the snacking market is expected to reach £9.1 billion (€14.2bn) by the end of 2002, an increase of less than 1 per cent or £67 million since 2001. In contrast, between 1997 and 1998 the year-on-year growth margin was three times this at £264 million.
The Mintel report forecasts that thevalue of the market will continue to grow, reaching £9.9 billion by 2006, translated as a growth rate of around 2 per cent a year.
Although just under half of sales fall to sugar and chocolate confectionery, this area of the market in particular seems to be losing momentum. Lack ofreal innovation to drive impulse purchases is a factor, but the mobile phone phenomenon, claims Mintel, is also important.
"Sales of top-up cards and CDs, for instance,are competing with confectionery and often winning the battle for pocket-money purchases made by children," said Rob Church, consumer goods consultant.
Despite the evidence that chocolate is still the number one snack inBritain, fruit has become a serious contender for pole position, writes Mintel. Of the 984 adults questioned by Mintel, 51 per cent stated that they had snacked on chocolate in the proceeding month, and exactly one in two had snacked on fruit. Asconsumersin Britain become more aware of health issues, healthier snacks are expectedto become increasingly popular, challenging the £3.2 billion chocolate confectionery market.
It comes as no surprise to learn that 'Couch Potatoes', according to the report, are most likely to eat in front of the television and least likely to have a traditional diet of meat and two vegetables. They do not feel that it is important to have at least one family meal together a day and tend not to make a point of eating at regular times.
A quarter of this group rarely cook, so they are the least likely to cook a meal from scratch.
The Mintel report adds that the influence of breakfast, believed by many health experts to be the most important meal of the day, has had a significant impact on the levels of snacking. Among those who never eat breakfast only 28 per cent snack rarely, while a third ofbreakfast eaters snack rarely. In addition to this, nearly a fifth of those who never eat breakfast also tend to substitute a proper lunch with several snacks. Naturally, consumers that never eat breakfast are far more likely to snack on impulse.
The report adds that chocolate and sugar confectionery dominate the snack product market in terms of value, but as far as potential growth is concerned both these sectors have seen little positive movement.
Between 1997 and 1998 the chocolate and sugar confectionery markets experienced a 7 per cent and a 5 per cent rise in retail sales respectively. However, since 1998 the chocolate confectionery market has remained stagnant and the sugar confectionery market has plummeted by 8 per cent to £1,075 million in 2001.
This compares with the nut and dried fruit market, a further segment influenced by the burgeoning health trend, which has experienced a 20 per cent increase in retail sales between 1997 and 2001, with retail sales estimated at £287 million in 2001.
With a massive 55 per cent increase in retail sales between 1997 and 2001 the cereal bar market has experienced the greatest growth, further demonstrating the influence of the consumer's bid for a healthier lifestyle.
Mintel maintains that between 2001 and 2002 retail sales for cereal bars will increase by another 12 per cent, making this the product with the best growth opportunities in the snacking market.
The report clearly shows that health messages are reaching the consumer. However, Mintel also stated that consumer stress levels are high and play a part in driving the consumer towards comfort eating. Nearly half of those questioned agreed with the statement 'my life is quite stressful', with women being more likely toagree with the statement than men.