Following the hybrid frenzy in pastries, biscuits is also jumping on the hybrid bandwagon. The last few months have seen a flurry of hybrid cracker launches, particularly in the US and the UK, two of the biggest cracker markets globally. These new products heavily borrow from chips/crisps and pretzels, mainly because chips/crisps’ growth is set to outpace crackers’ growth over the next five years. But they are also inspired by other product categories, such as bread substitutes and rice. Blending crackers with other savory products not only enables companies operating in the crackers category to keep their brands relevant and fresh, but also allows them to capitalize on the higher growth prospects in competing categories. In addition, it gives an opportunity for chips/crisps or bread players to move into biscuits, one of the biggest and most dynamic snack categories.
The crisp envy
In the US, crackers based on pretzels and crisps underpin the latest product innovations. Cheez-It Grooves Crispy Cracker Chips from Kellogg feature a rippled surface inspired by rippled potato crisps while Twistos Baked Snack Bites from PepsiCo combine croutons with crackers for a new snack that can be eaten on its own or as a complement to soups or salads. The product has previously been launched in Canada and Argentina and was quite a success due to PepsiCo’s brand image and marketing strength. In the UK, Sunbites crisps from PepsiCo, which has grown at an impressive 28% CAGR over 2009-14, reaching US$47 million in 2014, was subsequently extended to crackers/savory biscuits in February 2015.
These new products give the category a novelty by providing something exciting, potentially drawing crisp consumers into savory biscuits. Some of these, like Twistos, are lower in per-serving calorie content compared to standard crackers, boosting their appeal among carb-conscious consumers.
Something new for crisps manufacturers
In addition to providing something fresh and novel to a rather mature category, launching hybrid crackers also gives snack players a new environment in which to operate. Companies like PepsiCo and Intersnack, which together command almost a third of the global snacks market, have a minimal presence in savory biscuits/crackers, which is largely controlled by confectionery players like Mondelez, or local players such as M Dias Branco and Arcor. Launching crackers makes commercial sense for snack companies like PepsiCo, which with close to a 30% share of the global snacks market, have hit a ceiling and do not have much scope to further grow their share. Crackers is a good area to venture into because with a forecast value CAGR of 3% over 2009-14, the category is expected to outperform both tortilla chips and popcorn. Also, depending on the retailer, crackers are stocked in the crisps aisle, savory biscuits aisle or across both, which gives the products broader exposure, potentially resulting in cross-aisle synergies and in turn higher revenues.
Not for purists
Crackers are seeing renewed interest from savory snack players. With their strong growth prospects, healthier positioning and similarities to crisps, crackers definitely have a promising potential for savory snack manufacturers. However, expanding into crackers is not a failsafe strategy. There is the risk of cannibalization of sales of existing product lines – consumers are unlikely to buy their favorite brand in two different product formats. Hybrid products might also create confusion among Western biscuit consumers who are moving towards clean label products that are functional or nutritional. However, with a clear positioning and a simple message hybrid crackers may help crisp manufacturers to recuperate their plateauing revenues in mature markets.
For further insight please contact Pinar Hosafci, Food Analyst at Euromonitor International, firstname.lastname@example.org.