Working, commuting, exercising or hobbies whatever the activity, it all takes energy. So how and where do customers find a much-needed boost? The first part of the answer can be found in a ’snack’ a food portion that is smaller than a regular meal, eaten between main meals and often on-the-go. If the right snack is eaten at the right time it can even out hunger spikes, give a boost between meals, and provide nutrition.

So how much do we snack in the UK? Mintel’s consumer research, Consumer Snacking UK (June 2010), found that nine out of 10 Brits eat snacks between meals; half of us have a snack at least once a day. Women are more prone to grab a snack when hunger strikes, with nearly three-quarters of women (73%) reaching for a snack compared to just over half of men (59%). Likewise, over two-thirds (68%) of manual workers reach for a snack when hunger hits, compared to 59% of retail workers. Half of us admit to feeling guilt after eating a between-meal snack, and women have far guiltier consciences than men at 61% versus 38%.

Considering choices

Are you capitalising on these sales opportunities? When asked how much thought is given to the sort of food snacked on between meals, 67% of people answered ’a little’. Most people like to first assess what is available and then decide if they want to eat it.

If asked, ’what do you snack on most often?’, the top answer is often chocolate at 36% for men and 32% for women, who also rate fruit at 32%. Is this because chocolate is easier to find on the high street?

What are the latest trends in the snack market and what format do customers look for? Snacks mean different things to different people and come in various forms, ranging from fresh products to packaged and processed foods.

As well as freshly baked products, packaged snacks such as crisps can mean significant business and complement the core range. What do you have in your selection? Snack foods need to be portable, quick and satisfying. Your customers might come in looking for snacks ranging from a sausage roll to a piece of fruit to a muffin. Do you cater for their snacking needs?

It is important not to forget there is an ever-growing demand for healthier eating options. As customers are shifting more and more to healthier foods, there is a need to focus more on the premium ingredients and nutritional benefits of your product range. Make sure to include some form of snack that is low-fat, low-salt, rich in fibre or a natural product.

Consider expanding the range with some top-selling healthier snacks: dried fruit, mixed raisins and seeds, grapes, granola, low-fat crisps or skinny muffins to name just a few.

Liquid assets

What about soup? It meets both needs. With the current demand for healthier options driving a decline in some traditional snacks, soup is an ideal choice. Soup is perceived as a healthier and lower-calorie solution that can be eaten as a top-up in either summer or winter.

According to Mintel’s Soup UK (May 2010) report, fresh soups account for a quarter of all soup sales, from which a fifth of consumers consider that fresh soups are better quality than tinned ones. But how do you provide soup to customers as a snack on the move? It is vital to provide customers with suitable packaging specially designed for on-the-go consumption, such as cups.

Remember that snacks are not meant to be entire meals. So it is fundamental that you offer snack items that are both convenient and portable snacks to your customers.