UK consumers’ penchant for popcorn fuels £3.3bn spending on bagged snacks

UK consumers spent £3.3bn on bagged snacks last year – a 30 per cent increase on 2010, driven by the growth of alternative snacks like popcorn and kale crisps.

The alternative snack market grew at 35 per cent growth for the five-year period with £1.6bn spent, according to the market research firm Key Note.

Brits were also peckish for potato crisps and nuts, with purchases of both rising by 26 per cent to £1.4bn and £269m.

Consumers have been plumping for bagged snacks due to increasingly busy lifestyles and less rigid meal times, with pre-packaged options and portable nibbles providing the ideal selection.

As Brits become more health-conscious, however, alternative snacks to potato crisps are growing in favour. Kale and lentil crisps, as well as popcorn have fuelled the demand, with increased flavour ranges helping to drive consumer interest.

The UK has seen a raft of popcorn startups in recent years, including POP, Metcalfe’s Skinny Popcorn and Joe & Seph’s.

Meanwhile, Propercorn’s turnover has tripled from £2m to £6m in the past 12 months, with part of its success stemming from aiming to reinvent the snack as a premium, nibble – not just confined to cinema trips.

The business bills itself as a healthy snack provider, using a “small amount of rapeseed oil” in contrast to the usual perception of popcorn being fried in considerable amounts of oil.

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Co-founder Ryan Kohn said popcorn was “the one part of the snacking market that’s growing year-on-year” as it has “hit the healthy snacking trend” and become a major player within it.

IRI data indicated that overall popcorn sales rose by 38 per cent to £87.4m in the year up to December 2014 – making it the fastest growing sub-category in bagged snacks.

It’s not just snack brands looking to capitalise on the rise of the health-conscious consumer and more mobile eating habits either.

Healthy ready meal provider BOL Foods has tapped into the desire for quick meals that are still good for you, and after a few months of operation, has delivered over £1m in retail sales, with a target for the year of over £10m.

It has secured listings with Sainsbury’s Tesco and Ocado, and founder Paul Brown feels the desire for healthy food is such that there’s plenty of room for expansion. “There’s an opportunity outside of grocery within delicatessens, sandwich bars, travel places. We’ve already had interest from as far away as Australia,” he said.

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