As the world sheltered at home during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, consumers were eager to jump on the e-commerce bandwagon and have things they needed brought to them.

“E-commerce is fast, and during the pandemic more and more people turned to it,” said Mio Sakata, president of Calbee America Inc., Fairfield, Calif. “That completely changed the snack purchasing and eating behavior. That is one arena I’m looking at. The other one is the dollar, liquidator and discount stores.”

He said that dollar stores used to be regarded as carrying cheap junk food, but they are now carrying a wide variety of items that consumers want.

“The real winner for me is dollar stores that are tapping into the really small rural areas,” Mr. Sakata said. “Each rural area has one dollar store, and it works like a convenience store. It has the essentials needed for daily life.”

The digital space is where HighKey gained its initial customers, and it will continue to be an important channel for the company, said Joe Ens, co-chief executive officer of HighKey. But the company is expanding into retail, and he said that he expects people to return to their former snack-buying channels as the pandemic winds down.

“I think consumers will rediscover c-stores and coffee shops as a key place to buy snacks,” Mr. Ens said. “I think retailers during the pandemic have done an exceptional job taking advantage of the fact that people are sourcing snacks for their homes as opposed to for their purses or in their cars or desks.”

Sally Lyons Wyatt, IRI executive vice president and practice leader, said that e-commerce was a driver of growth for snack sales in the past year. She added that club stores like Sam’s Club and Costco also did well as consumers stocked up on their favorite snacks, but she expects convenience and drug stores will bounce back.

This article is an excerpt from the July 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Snacks, click here.