Consumers look to comfort foods to ease stress during times of crisis. Through 2020, we have seen this trend play out in the snack category, with salty snacks seeing a bump in household penetration while continuing to outperform other snack categories. However, as stress levels decrease and COVID-19 restrictions ease, retailers and brands can expect the average consumer to loosen their grip on their favorite bag of chips; the increased ability to move and exercise could have consumers looking to healthier snack options toward the end of 2020.

According to Mintel, “Salty snacks continue to see strong dollar sales growth, increasing by nearly 7% in 2019 to top $19 billion. While the rate of future growth was expected to slow given the increased snack competition (often from healthier alternatives), the category should see a spike in sales due to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Although salty snacks are leading the competition, it will be important for the segment to innovate over the coming months to remain relevant. Competition from new brands is on the rise, and with the recent interest in health and wellness, brands should prepare for a change in consumer sentiment towards snacking occasions.

Percentage growth in select snack categories, 2014-19

Mintel reports that snack brands can stand apart from competitors by marketing to consumers with portable options. Grab-and-go is a key driver for increased consumption and an opportunity for brands to target active consumers on the move. “One in five snackers does so while working, and more than one in 10 do so in transit. These percentages jump even higher among key snack consumer groups, such as parents. Snacks that are packaged in sturdier, smaller, even resealable packaging can help meet this consumer need,” reports Mintel.

Although salty snacks are enjoying a wave of popularity, it remains important for brands to stay innovative as we enter the end of 2020. Aside from indulgence, salty snack brands need to prove their worth in other areas, including satiety, health, and portability.