Back to School Snack Attack

By JACQUELYN COOLEY | Market Research Analyst | August 27 2018

As the sizzling summer weather starts to cool down, parents are heading indoors to browse the Internet in search of the best back-to-school deals.While binders, notebooks, pencils, and pens will certainly be hot commodities, those parents really looking to relax when the school year begins will quickly be stocking the pantry with food items needed to fuel young minds.

By looking back at the 2017 back-to-school season, 1010data Ecommerce Market Benchmark is providing the insights you need to anticipate trends in the salty snacks category this season.

Thanks Mom

By no means is this to discredit dads; however, in 2016 and 2017, on average, females purchased nearly 60% of salty snacks sold online. We also saw consumers between the age of 35 and 44 as the primary purchasers, accounting for roughly 42% of total online spend. The next set of top buyers were those 45 to 54 years old with approximately 29% of the share. Parents, no one said you have to share with your kids!

Mixing It Up

Many consumers love all the flavors that chips, popcorn, and pretzel makers offer, and 1010data Ecommerce Market Benchmark indicates there is a clear preference for variety packs. In Q3 2017, when most kids returned to school, 15 of the top 20 selling items mentioned either variety, mix, or indicated that they contained more than one flavor in the item name description. Of the top 10 brands, those such as Frito-Lay, Snyder’s of Hanover, and Pringles all saw an increase in market share in Q3 (both 2016 and 2017) before falling slightly to more gourmet brands during the holiday season. These traditional school snack food brands have withstood the test of time and show a strong performance in the online space.

The Rise of Walmart

This likely comes as no surprise, but more consumers are turning to online grocery shopping to save time, money, and energy. Our data exhibits a 47% increase year-over-year (YOY) and a 132% growth from two years prior to online grocery spend. Walmart accounted for 22% of the total YOY growth.

Through increased online assortment and expansion of both its click-and-collect, and delivery service, Walmart has flexed its muscles and proved to be a true grocery competitor. By the end of Q2 FY19, Walmart had more than 1,800 grocery pickup locations, over 320 stores offering grocery delivery, and an additional 325 pickup towers. Walmart also boasted the addition of 1,100 new popular brands to its online assortment.

Within the salty snack category, their online grocery platform has seen a 111% increase in sales YOY. This closely tracks with the 117% growth rate of the number of customer zip codes, suggesting that Walmart’s online delivery has reached both new markets and new individuals.

Private Labels Emerge

In addition to the introduction of new brands driving success, Walmart’s growth in salty snacks can also be attributed to its private label, Great Value, which saw sales grow by 138% YOY. Looking beyond Walmart, H-E-B’s own salty snacks grew by 254% YOY. Dramatic sales increases for these private labels suggest consumers are looking for cheaper alternatives from trusted retailers. Walmart and H-E-B’s private label products are four times cheaper, on average, than those sold by most of the leading brands.

Pantries or Parties?

1010data Ecommerce Market Benchmark tracks category spend on a monthly basis and the data shows that back-to-school time isn’t the busiest season for salty snacks purchases. In fact, salty snack sales tend to peak for the year when consumers are getting ready for holiday parties in December. Although some products show strong seasonality, the salty snack category is seeing sizable growth overall at 48% YOY.

What does this all mean? Salty snacks have always been a brick-and-mortar fan favorite, but they are proving to be a popular online buy as well. While data suggests parents are in fact buying these items around back-to-school time, it is safe to say that adults too, can’t imagine life without their favorite snack brands.