CENTER STORE

Impulsive purchases drive snack segment growth

BY Tara Smith

CHICAGO Snack-food companies that focus on the how and why behind consumer purchases are leading to success in the marketplace. Sales of snack foods at U.S. grocery and independent stores are on the rise, and a new study from Information Resources Inc. indicates that the strong sales can partly be attributed to the impulsive nature of the consumer.

“After years of struggling sales, ‘center store’ categories, that is, shelf stable food and beverages, are showing signs of revival and dollar sales grew 3 percent over the last year,” the report stated. Although the greatest increases in revenue were for “healthy” snack products, such as granola bars which were up 10.2 percent, most snack categories increased revenues in dollar sales for the 52-week period ended August 12.

According to IRI, consumers often buy these types of product on impulse, and usually when walking past a grocery on the street. The report also found that the most successful manufacturers were those that carried out marketing campaigns aimed at consumers in a hurry.

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What’s Hot: Halloween Kit Kat bars return with new designs

BY DSN STAFF

Just in time for the Halloween season, Hershey Co. is bringing back its Kit Kat Ghoulish Collection. The iconic light, crispy wafers covered in milk chocolate feature four holiday-themed spooky designs etched over the four-stick bars.

Though the Kit Kat Ghoulish Collection is not a new endeavor for 2007, the company has replaced last year’s designs with all-new ones: Spooky Snacks bats, You’ve Been Bitten fangs, Happy Hauntings ghosts and wickedly delicious Best Witches. The designs are available in single packs and king-size packages.

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Convenient packaging, healthier profiles drive soup sales

BY DSN STAFF

Boosted by convenience and more healthy options, sales of soup have been strong at drug stores. Sales of ready-to-serve wet soup were up over 10 percent for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 12, 2007, according to Information Resources Inc. Sales of condensed wet soups surged ahead nearly 6 percent during the same time period.

Consumers’ desire for more healthful food options is responsible, in part, for the boost in sales. Soup is a heat-and-serve product that gives consumers a convenient way of eating a balanced meal. It’s also an easy way for consumers to get an additional serving of vegetables into their diets.

Much of the growth has been due to introductions with a more healthful profile. A report on the category by Mintel International Group points out that while canned soups have traditionally had high sodium content, new low-sodium products have addressed the issue with reduced-sodium options.

In addition to low-sodium and low-carb products introduced, organic and natural products also have been taking more space on store shelves. The success of Wolfgang Puck’s soup line in 1999 and his brand’s expansion into organic products has opened the door to higher-priced, higher-value soups—a trend that mainstream brands have noticed. Campbells, for example, is highlighting the natural sea salt in its low-sodium Healthy Request Soups in its new campaign for that brand.

In fact, research conducted by Campbell’s revealed that 65 percent of respondents said lower-sodium soups brought them back to buying the Campbell’s brand.

General Mills’ Progresso, the other power brand in the category, has been active in the low-sodium segment, as well. The company launched Progresso Reduced Sodium Soups last year and continues to add line extensions to the successful brand. Two of the newest flavors added to the brand’s lineup are chicken & wild rice and Italian-style wedding.

SOUP: A category for consumers looking for lunch on the run

29 percent of respondents eat lunch at their desk

15 percent of respondents eat lunch in their car*

*Mintel International Group Limited’s “What’s For Lunch” survey

Progresso also recently teamed up with Weight Watchers to launch Progresso Light, a canned soup with a Weight Watchers’ Points value of zero. The soups, which contain 60 calories and 4 grams of fiber, deliver a full serving of vegetables. The new products are being touted as “a whole new option in ready-to-serve soup” because they are the first to gain the trusted Weight Watchers endorsement on the front label.

Healthfulness is only part of soups’ appeal. Convenience also is a key factor. “Soups are really convenient and can be eaten for lunch, a snack or for dinner. So they have multiple uses and are very versatile,” said June Jo, an analyst for The Hartman Group.

Microwavable containers and one-cup portable portions are giving the category an even faster, more convenient profile. A recent study from Mintel reported that before shippable soup and single servings in microwavable bowls, soup was not a realistic option for people eating on the go. These new options make soup easier to handle and widen the category’s appeal for consumers. “Anything manufacturers can do to make soup simpler and faster to prepare will help drive sales,” Mintel’s report stated.

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