Consumers to snack more outside the home but e-commerce is here to stay, survey finds

Dive Brief:

  • Snacks will be a staple for 84% of consumers during the summer, according to Frito-Lay’s latest U.S. Snack Index. As the pandemic winds down, more consumers will be purchasing snacks in person, the late April online poll of 2,199 adults found. This includes at the supermarket (up 14 points from 2020), while one-third plan to pick up snacks at convenience stores. 

  • Snack purchases through e-commerce saw a boost during the pandemic and the trend will likely stick as COVID-19 lifts, according to PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay. With online sales up 73% compared to last year, Frito-Lay predicts e-commerce snack sales to double by 2025.

  • Convenience and classic flavors are the main drivers behind summer snack choices, according to the survey. But consumers are showing more curiosity about flavors, with 32% opting for new, spicy and bold flavors, up 7 percentage points from 2020. These sentiments require snack manufacturers to strike a balance as the pandemic lifts.

Dive Insight:

As the owner of snack giant Frito-Lay, PepsiCo has a deep interest in tracking consumers’ snacking habits, particularly after the tumultuous past year for the food and beverage industry. Snacks became a source of comfort and a way to break up the monotony of quarantine during the pandemic as 88% of consumers increased their snacking habits or continued at pre-pandemic levels, according to research by Mondelez International.

As COVID-19 restrictions lift, consumers are making plans for the summer that involve getting out of the house and spending time with other people. As a result, snacking outside the home will likely increase, according to Frito-Lay’s U.S. Snack Index. Restaurants, sporting events, concerts and outdoor activities are a few examples that consumers have already penciled in for the summer. 

CPGs shouldn’t place all their bets on meeting snacking demand outside the home, however. E-commerce experienced record adoption during the pandemic and many consumers plan to continue purchasing snacks through digital channels. Half of adults started buying snacks online more often and 69% planned to continue this practice after the pandemic, according to Mondelez International’s 2020 State of Snacking report

Snack makers may struggle to figure out the right product offerings for in-store displays as some consumers continue to stock up on favorites through e-commerce channels. At the same time, consumers who have adopted online shopping may have grown accustomed to a much broader range of products at their fingertips compared to a more limited in-store selection.

To capitalize on consumers’ new love of e-commerce, PepsiCo launched two new direct-to-consumer sites during the pandemic. PantryShop.com offers specialized bundles that feature PepsiCo’s best-sellers including pre-made packages that can help consumers discover new snacks. This ties into consumers’ love of classics but willingness to experiment with new items. Snacks.com features over 100 Frito-Lay products.

PepsiCo also recently signed a distribution deal with Chobani to distribute some of the yogurt maker’s products at convenience stores, colleges and universities where consumers will soon be returning. Adding healthy snacking options like yogurt also helps PepsiCo appeal to the growing number of consumers who used the pandemic to focus on their health and wellness.

Snack competitor Mondelez has also made a series of moves to address pandemic snacking trends. This included improving its online search capabilities and revising some product packaging for better digital display. It also rolled out social media campaigns to catch consumers’ attention as they spent more time on their phones during quarantine. 

Mondelez is also hoping to discover the next big brands in snacking through its newly launched early-stage incubator for snacks called CoLab. It’s also been making aggressive moves to expand its portfolio by acquiring, launching or making minority investments in startup brands while increasing the number of healthy snack options in its stable.

 

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