Free-from snacks
Snack foods that call attention to specific claims are driving the strongest uptick in U.S. snack category sales.

NEW YORK — Products that call attention to specific claims are driving the strongest uptick in U.S. snack category sales, according to Nielsen.

“For example, snacking products that are non-G.M.O. lead the way with an 18.2% surge in dollar sales for each of the past five years, followed by snacking products that are free from artificial colors/flavors (16.2%) and no/reduced-sugar claims (11.3%),” Nielsen said. “Comparatively, the average snack product has seen an increase of only 1.2%. Even in traditionally indulgent snacking categories like salty snacks, health claims are driving sales.”

Salty snacks chart

The percentages in some instances were even higher for snack-sized salty snacks. Non-G.M.O. claims in such snacks registered a compound annual growth rate of 29.3% over the five-year period ended Sept. 30, 2017. Other snack-sized salty snacks with CAGRs over 20% were gluten-free (27.6%), free from artificial colors and/or flavors (26.4%), organic (24.5%) and no preservatives (24.1%). Sales of snack-sized salty snacks with no-sugar or reduced-sugar claims, however, averaged an 8.6% decrease in sales each year over the five years. The total category registered a CAGR of 3.2%. 

Nielsen delivered the insights by using information from two of its reports issued this year: “The Sweet Success of Snacking Across the Store” and “Convenience Store Choice Drivers 2017.”

C-store snacks chart

Annual spending on individually packaged snacks increased 1.1% over the previous year and has become a $33 billion category with 98% of U.S. households purchasing the items, according to Nielsen. Over the 52-week period ended Sept. 9, 2017, snack sales gained for salty snacks (6%), cookies/crackers (6%), jerky (5%), produce (5%) and confections (1%). Dairy snack sales fell 4% while snack sales of baked foods and nuts/seeds both were down 1%. Sales of snack bars slipped 0.2%.

An opportunity exists to grow sales of healthier snacks at convenience stores since 44% of U.S. consumers are willing to pay a premium at convenience stores, according to Nielsen. Sales of individually packaged snacks at U.S. convenience stores reached $9.6 billion in the 52-week period ended Sept. 9, according to Nielsen.