Americans purchase the majority of snack foods consumed globally. On average, each American spends $200 per year on snack food and consumes 22.4 kg in a year. The market is huge and is anticipated to grow at a rate of 4% annually through 2021 offering even more opportunities for brand manufacturers.
Industry research confirms Millennials are responsible for most of this growth as the generation that does the most snacking. This is due to numerous factors including their more active and out-of-the-house lifestyle – which drives them to buy more portable snack-sized foods – as well as their tendency to “graze”, the practice of forgoing the traditional three meals in favor of more frequent snacking throughout the day. With Millennials (as well as Gen Z-ers to a lesser but growing degree) driving the purchases of snack foods, it’s no wonder Amazon is seeing a boom in this category.
How one defines “snack food” may vary from person to person, at this time of year all eyes are on one specific piece of this broad category: school snacks. The wide variety of available school snacks, which includes individually packaged portions and kid-friendly treats, has helped drive a YoY sales growth of almost 40%, totalling an estimated $350M of sales on Amazon.com for H1 2018. These school snacks are often purchased by parents, but are increasingly chosen by children as they get older and enter high school and college.
Though we’re nearing the end of the back-to-school period, it’s too soon to get a complete picture of how school snacks have performed in this critical season. For this reason, we’re going to review the category’s trends and trajectories during the first half (H1) of 2018, before taking a preliminary look at the biggest trends so far in fall 2018. We will return to this subject in the near future to recap the sales spike during the complete back-to-school season after the dust has settled.
So, what has fuelled the sales growth of school snacks on Amazon in H1 2018? One could presume that sales of new lunch bags, reusable snack bags, and a variety of bento-style lunch boxes have more parents conveniently packing lunches for their children. But health appears to be the biggest new trend.
Thanks to today’s increasingly health conscious parents, kids are consuming more nutritional snacks than previous generations. On top of that, older students are even packing more nutritional snack options for themselves. We’re seeing an overall trend towards snack foods that have high nutritional value, are available in convenient packages, and are loaded with great flavors and textures. While taste remains the #1 priority in snack selection, it is followed by foods with identifiable ingredients, and those that conform to ethical principles students find important, such as sustainability and fair trade.
Amazon’s Top Selling School Snacks
The largest category of school snacks is nutritional bars; these snacks promote healthy eating by offering high protein levels, combined with less sugar and fat. The leading brand is Quest Nutrition with three products appearing among the top ten sellers of H1 2018. Quest’s Protein Cookies; Protein Bars; and Protein Chips are popular as they include more natural ingredients than those found in traditional snacks and still taste great. Quest’s products are also sugar, soy and gluten-free, aligning with some of the current diet trends, and are individually wrapped for busy families on the go. Finally their availability in multi-pack formats provides additional savings.
Families’ focus on health is again reflected in the fastest-growing category: Snack Nuts. Nuts contain a high source of nutrients and daily consumption has been shown to reduce the risk of many diseases, which has families choosing them more often. The Snack Nut category also had the highest 3rd party sales of approximately $25M with third-party sellers like Wild Soil earning the “Amazon’s Choice” tag for their 3-pound bag of almonds. These almonds are sustainably grown and steam pasteurized, offering consumers both prebiotic and probiotic benefits.
Another top seller is Planters Deluxe Mixed Nuts in a 15.25oz canister. The deluxe mix includes a variety of nuts making it a tasty item for school snacks as well as a family treat. The versatility of this product combined with its low price has resulted in nearly quadrupled sales versus H1 2017.
Salty Snacks, the #2 category, controls the most real estate on the bestseller list, with six of the top ten items. Although traditional salty snacks like crackers and chips remain favorites, H1 2018 witnessed an increase in healthy alternatives, such as Quest’s Protein Chips. The healthier side of the Salty Snack category saw an increase of almost 35% in YoY sales, while traditional products had a more modest increase of 20%.
Consistently leading the category is Pepperidge Farm’s Goldfish Crackers. Goldfish continue to make the Top 10 for their taste but also the fact that they contain no artificial flavors or colors. Pepperidge Farm has had the most success on Amazon with their single-serving package sizes, which offer convenience and variety while also being very affordable.
School Snack Trends, Fall 2018
Amazon executed well over 300 promotions on School Snacks during the last week of August to the beginning of September 2018 and saw sales increase significantly as a result. With promotions and trends behind them, it appears likely that healthy, tasty, convenient and economical snacks will remain leaders in the School Snacks category for the foreseeable future.
Fall sales of healthier school snacks again prevailed with Smartfood Popcorn beating out potato chips. The shift can likely be explained by the continuing search for healthier snacks, as popcorn is lighter contains more fiber than potato chips or crackers, plus it is composed of whole grains.
Following the summer fruit season, four of the top five trending school snacks are made of fruit and available in variety packs. With an unseasonably hot fall, students may be gravitating towards a lighter snack to give them a boost of energy. However, not all fruit snacks are prepared equally, so it’s important for shoppers to read labels and for brands to clearly communicate their quality to mindful potential customers.
Snack food producers would do well to concentrate on snacks made from natural ingredients, which follow current dietary trends (be it high protein, gluten-free, high fiber, keto) and reflect the latest food science. For the foreseeable future, these healthy snack foods should be offered in a variety of flavors, individually portioned and sold at a competitive price point.
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