Euromonitor muses the creative engagement needed to drive snack sales in a COVID-driven world

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

The new snacking universe includes a greater emphasis on health, online engagement and home entertainment. Pic: GettyImages/Drazen Zigic
The new snacking universe includes a greater emphasis on health, online engagement and home entertainment. Pic: GettyImages/Drazen Zigic

Related tags: Euromonitor international, snacking, coronavirus, ecommerce, Social media, Natural colours, Texture, home baking

The pandemic has fundamentally altered the way people snack, shifting away from on-the-go treats towards at-home eating – and baking! Our vulnerability has been forced into the spotlight, placing greater emphasis on health; the restricted footfall in retail saw producers devising new ways to engage with consumers; and the mounting desire for moments of comfort amid a confused world drove experiential snacking in 2020.

Snacking certainly was on everyone's menu last year, with the sector experiencing a massive explosion in demand. However, the challenges thrown up by the coronavirus pandemic have changed the retail landscape and brand owners will need to adopt a sea-change to develop and maintain relevance, according to Euromonitor International.

Euromonitor experiential snacking 1

Last year saw an increase in trends like the growth of e-commerce and innovation to address consumer demands in their homes as on-the-go consumption and impulse purchases took a dive.

The biggest emphasis was placed on health, leading towards lighter moments of indulgence and snacks that deliver a holistic experience. According to Euromonitor International’s Lifestyles Survey, at least 40% of respondents in the youngest generations globally seek tailored experiences. The market researcher also noted that there is still room for development in the visual appearance of snacks to convey a healthier image by leveraging an ingredient’s natural colour.

Colour played a key role in differentiating snacks on an increasingly crowded ecommerce platform, while unique shapes and concepts appealed to consumers’ desire for something exciting, inviting consumers to engage with their foods more and bring entertainment into their home.

With the pandemic continuing to ravage the world with no definitive end in sight, the snacking occasion is expected to endure. In fact, home seclusion and social distancing have translated into exceptional growth for the sector, driven by the consumers’ tendency to snack more at home and indulge during a difficult time. So, while opportunities abound, the playing field has definitely changed, forcing snack producers to devise new ways to engage with consumers.

Coronavirus is undeniably having a key impact on the way consumers shop, reported Euromonitor.

Value sales declined through the most common on-the-go snacks channel: convenience stores saw a 1.13% decline, forecourt retailers posted a 7.06% shrinkage and vending machines – a staple go-to solution for hurried office workers – experienced a 10.64% fall in sales.

This negative impact on the more traditional channels has however, boosted the penetration of online and provided new ways to meet consumer needs amid reduced mobility and staying at home more often.

There has been a strong acceleration in the industry’s focus on the digital world through advertisements and online strategies, particularly social media. Increasing the online presence of consumers through their own posts is set to be one of the key drivers of the snacking experience.

With daily trips to retailers becoming more carefully planned and consumers forced to familiarise themselves with e-commerce channels, the manufacturing sector has had to find new ways to develop and maintain their level of engagement with consumers.

The snacks sector has typically been dependent on visual appeal and this has been brought to the fore. In fact, according to Euromonitor, appearance is one of the main pillars that will drive snack sales through the pandemic.

Showing true colours

Euromonitor’s Lifestyle Survey found that, last year, at least 60% of consumers browed the web on a daily basis and 50% of them visited a social media platform.

This puts product qualities like colour and shape in the limelight and spurs innovation opportunities to really stand out on social media by having the visual ‘wow’ factor.

Colour can also play an important role in conveying health benefits. For example, colours naturally derived from a key ingredient is a powerful way to promote that ingredient and the natural positioning of the product.

To highlight the success of this concept, Euromonitor noted the growing popularity of Jan’s Purple Sweet Potato chips in UAE, which shows how consumers are intrigued by products with unusual colours, boosted by the permissible snacking perception brought by the short ingredients list and the natural image.

Alongside the increasing demand for natural ingredients is an growing desire for fantasy experiences to counteract a gloomy and uncertain future, coercing a greater use of fictional characters, such as unicorns and mermaids, in bright, bold colours.

As a case in point, Euromonitor notes Kellogg’s launch of a blue Mermaid, pink Unicorn and yellow Birthday waffle with rainbow sprinkles. To maintain a semblance of celebratory occasions amid social distancing measures, brands have also motivated to add more seasonal accents and ranges, such as Reese’s peanut butter cups with nutcracker-shaped chocolate figures which was popular with consumers in the US during Christmas 2020.

A lighter touch

Euromonitor’s analysis into experiential snacking fingers texture as the next important criteria to drive sales. According to the market researcher, texture can diversify and add layers of novelty to a snack, with crunchy and crispy textures becoming more appealing among consumers.

Developments aiming to create a lighter effect in the mouth are increasingly being sought by consumers across the world, not only from salty and savoury snacks, but from sweet indulgences. A lighter, crispier texture is also increasingly affiliated with a healthier offering and the typical creamy and melting consistencies found in sweet treats is now often considered too heavy and unhealthy.

Hand in hand with the will to snack during an uncertain time, growing health concerns has driven the desire to have ‘lighter’ snacks than before. Euromonitor’s Health and Nutrition Survey shows a growing number of consumers worldwide pay more attention to their eating habits to maintain good health.

The path towards thinner and crispier biscuits was also adopted by Mondelez’ Oreo’s product, Oreo Thins and Kinder Cards, which launched in various Western European countries with a thin crispy wafer as a base for the iconic Kinder’s milk chocolate, highlighted Euromonitor.

Home theatre

Finally, a criteria that is expected to grow in importance as the pandemic persists is ‘Hometainment’.

According to the market researcher, in addition to enhancing the sensorial experience, snacks can elevate the consumer experience by providing entertainment and making a product more memorable.

An increasing number of products targeting budding bakers popped up in 2020 to capitalise on the manic baking craze and a raft of brands released baking kits. Here, Mondelez again came to the fore with a personalised online service to create customised Oreos for any occasion.

Innovation towards lighter, thinner and crispier textures will be key elements of sweet snacks as consumers’ desires to stay healthy, but also being able to indulge in treats becomes more popular. There is still room for development in the visual appearance of snacks to convey a healthier image by leveraging an ingredient’s unique and natural colour. Beyond innovation of the product, snacks need to continue to deliver a holistic experience; something which can be achieved by bringing entertainment to the home. This may take the form of fun concepts which invite consumers to engage with their foods more. Finally, gifting, personalisation and unboxing products will also help snacks brands to elevate their image.

While 2020 witnessed a higher focus on the online world overall, rising health concerns and increasing product development designed to address consumer demands in their homes, the world is still a long way off from the ‘normal’ of yesteryear. So, these trends are set to stay and brand owners will need to quickly shift strategies for long term success.

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