When consumers buy lunch from a high-street bakery or sandwich shop, how many of them buy a drink and a snack to go alongside a pasty or roll? OK, an exact figure isn’t available, but it’s a lot. Looking to other retailers that have considerable success with the lunchtime trade, bakers might think about taking a leaf out of their book. Boots, for example, is known for its meal deals, offering a sandwich/salad with a drink and snack - such as crisps, bags of nuts or dried fruit, cereal bars or chocolate - for £2.99; and Boots is a chemist!

MD of Salty Dog Crisps Dave Willis agrees it is important for bakery retailers to stock a wide range of crisps and snacks. "So many people buy drinks, sandwiches and crisps for their lunch, that if bakers don’t sell these items, they could even miss out on the whole sale, as consumers may go elsewhere," explains Willis. "They’re very much a staple of the British lunchtime diet."

Salty niche

Established in 2002, Salty Dog supplies a range of crisps, vegetable crisps and nuts to the UK independent food sector, including a number of bakeries and the sandwich chain EAT, as well as into wholesale. "Our crisps are not sold in major supermarkets, which is a policy decision we made. The great thing about that is that bakers’ customers aren’t seeing the same crisps on the shelves of supermarkets at a cheaper price," explains Willis. "It makes them more of a niche product, meaning that more margin can be made. Also, if customers like them, it gives them more of a reason to return." He says a large number of retailers that have started stocking the crisps have reported sales shooting up. The 10-strong range includes Sea Salt, Sweet Chilli, Strong Cheddar and Onion, Horseradish and Sourcream and a new flavour, Black Pepper and Ginger, launched this month.

In terms of what’s hot and what’s not, a report published by Mintel in March this year revealed that cheese and onion has now taken the top spot for the nation’s favourite flavour, knocking ready salted into second place.

The market for cheese and onion crisps is currently worth around £256m, says Mintel, with sales up 15% in the last two years. Other popular flavours are salt and vinegar and prawn cocktail. "Despite the ongoing development of new and exciting flavours, the traditional favourites still win hands-down," says senior market analyst Emmanuelle Bouvier.

United Biscuits commercial manager Nick Stuart. says the growing UK bagged snacks market provides plenty of sales and profit opportunities for bakery retailers. "A carefully planned range of snacks provides the consumer with convenience and pleasure and can produce incremental sales and profits from impulse purchases."

Adding: "Customers who are buying a sausage roll or Cornish pasty for their lunch might also want to complete their meal with a soft drink or a packet of crisps, so retailers should have a range of products to meet this demand."

Brakes’ product knowledge manager Sally Sturley says snacking now accounts for 28% of all food consumption in the UK, with the combined crisps, snacks and nuts market worth £1.99bn per year.

"As customers have less disposable income, and are increasingly time-poor, having a grab-and-go snack menu alongside a full food offering is a good way of generating extra income from impulse purchases," says Sturley.

Healthier options

With so much hype around healthy eating, it’s no wonder that many companies are now offering healthier snacking options as an alternative to crisps. For example, alongside its bags of tortilla chips and crisps, Brakes now offers snack-size bags of dried fruit and nuts. Options include Totally Apricots, Jumbo Raisins and Sultanas and Fruit and Toasted Seed Mix. Another range of snacks looking to tackle the healthy eating snack market is Ryvita Minis. Launched back in 2004, the high-fibre snacks are now worth around £6.3m.

Tapping into a slightly different market, fruit snacks supplier Whitworths has just launched a range of 45g fruit, nut and chocolate snack bags, called Nibl, aiming to combine the health and indulgence trends. Senior product manager Esther Laycock-Smith says: "The growth in demand for healthier snacks has been well documented, but less prominence has been given to the fact that many adults do not want to compromise on taste."

Crisps and snacks are an integral part of a bakery’s offering and shouldn’t just be viewed as shelf-fillers. They can be promoted as part of a meal deal and, by stocking a range that’s a little bit different, can draw new customers in and increase your profit margins.