Strategies To Build The Better-For-You Snack Sector

Raj B. Shroff, founder and principal at PINE Strategy & Design, provides insights into reaching consumers looking for better-for-you snack options.

Cleveland — Understanding how to position healthy snacking is more important than ever. Though during the pandemic many consumers have sought less healthy, more traditional options, we don’t see that being a longer-term trend. 

Ask shoppers how they learn about new products, some say in-store, some say word of mouth and others through social media outlets such as Instagram. According to Hootsuite, a platform in the social media space, earlier in the buying cycle, people are using Instagram a lot. Fully 81 percent of people report using the platform to help research products and services. In this new age, finding snack foods has never been easier, they often show up in your feed.

But there is work to be done to go from feed to belly and retailers are the bridge. 

With the proliferation of healthy snacking options and terms such as natural, organic and clean still cluttering the market, there is room for improvement in how new snacks are served up in-store and online.

Brick & Mortar Continues To Drive Shopping

According to Coresight Research U.S. Online Grocery Survey 2020, despite sharp growth in e-grocery sales, a relatively small proportion of food shopping in the U.S. is done online.

That’s a great thing for retailers, as many haven’t figured out how to build a strong ecommerce presence. While they fix their stores, they can use this time to gain insight on the shopper path to purchase, unmet needs and where ecommerce can go with the use of shopper data. 

Despite heavy use of social media, many shoppers still look to product packaging and ingredients in-store to determine whether it’s right for them. A store such as Whole Foods helps the shopper because by their nature, shoppers know the overall selection is healthier and there is less difficulty in choosing because the shoppers of these stores trust the retailers’ curated options. 

In more traditional grocers that mix traditional and healthy, shoppers do the burden of work in finding and choosing the right snacks for them. If you are a mom or dad cruising the aisles, do you have spare time to look at the backs of boxes? Probably not. So, you resort to throwing the same tried, true snacks into your cart. Perhaps at the expense of their health, at the expense of a new upstart not being found, and at the expense of a retailer being seen as lacking empathy for the shopper.

Most shoppers are not adventurous — or don’t have the time to be so. The most experimental shoppers, according to the 2020 U.S. Snack Index, are gen z and millennials. In fact, 4 in 10 shoppers in this age group are likely to try new snack options. 

With the advent of snack mixes from Tyson Foods, Inc., Sargento Foods Inc. and others, retailers still lack a clear strategy on the role of the items in consumer’s lives and as such, where to put them in stores. For unique items such as baked chickpeas and others that don’t fit in a clear ‘category,’ many retailers simply stick them somewhere hoping they’ll be found. 

With overall low exploration, and reduced trips to the store, it is vital stores take leadership to showcase healthy snack options in ways that encourage trial and sales. It is to their benefit to do so. In 2020, one-fifth of respondents of the U.S. Snack Index said they were developing new rituals around food. Stores should take advantage of the positive trend.

In-Store Merchandising

A trip to the store should be an experience, especially for sectors where shoppers are highly engaged. Healthy snacking is one such sector.

Creating separate sections for natural or organic can pull shoppers in but at the same time deter those shoppers who aren’t ready to fully commit to those sectors or product types. 

Retailers have to get creative on placement strategies for healthy snacking; start thinking about occasions and day parts for their stores. And although the term ‘experience’ is overused these days, it’s true. The days of shoppers walking up and down aisles are numbered. Create an experience, generate some energy, rote missions are going online. 

Design snack zones in store which introduce new products. Get ratings and reviews, potentially integrating social reviews in-store and online. Let shoppers know where to find the healthy snacks and bring the gap between social media where they see them and how they can find them in your store.  

The Challenges Of Online Snack Shopping

Understanding shopper behavior is always important but getting insight into their online path to purchase will be critical for retailers. Many retail sites don’t have the right search terms and filters to help shoppers find items. They don’t have site architecture that makes sense for today’s snacking reality. 

While the in-store shopping experience can be very list driven, there is still a huge portion of it that is impulsive. Not everything in the cart was on the list.

The opposite is true online. When shoppers shop online, they are mostly shopping from a list and don’t veer from the list because the ecommerce experience makes it difficult. Traditional category management issues have quickly moved to marketing decisions as retailer sites become venues for paid media. 

It would be wise for retailers to not offer media to the highest bidder but to ensure proper profiling of the shopper to ensure they get relevant banners. A shopper trying to eat healthy won’t appreciate banners for indulgent snacks when they are looking for healthy alternatives. 

Gain additional insight into your shoppers. Incentivize them to complete profile information for them and their families. Understand their individual and collective goals, build individualized media strategies and offer relevant serendipity to create a more impulsive shopping experience. 

The Time Is Now

As healthy snacking continues to grow in demand and new products launch, getting ahead of how to engage shoppers is more important than ever. Relegating snacks to hard-to-find shelving displays and ‘stacking them high, letting them fly’ strategies have to go before it’s too late.

There are numerous ways to help shoppers find healthy snack options, and the time is right to take this seriously and get creative with solutions that put healthy snacks in front of more eyes. Snack consumption is rising and focus on healthy options is bright.

Strike while the iron is hot. We are still in the midst of a pandemic and New Year’s Resolutions. Get it right now, because over the long-haul growth will be steady and strong. The global healthy snacks market is expected to reach $32.3 billion by 2025, rising at a market growth of 5.07 percent CAGR during the forecast period, according to KBV Research.

Raj Shroff
Contributor Info:

Raj B. Shroff is founder and principal at PINE Strategy & Design. He is an experienced retail strategist who has guided leading CPG brands and retailers in research, strategy, experience design and digital-retail integration.