Potato chips: how new consumers’ health aspects are influencing the category.

The consumption of potato chips continues to grow, aiming more and more towards the factors of wellness. This is how the industry is capturing new opportunities and redefining the category.

In the Italian market, among the categories that are defined as ‘impulse’, potato chips represent a value – in terms of turnover – in excess of 290 million Euro, compared with a vast assortment that on average has about 38.5 references. Based on these numbers, it is interesting to observe that the category identifies itself by a display based on a ‘brand’. It is not a coincidence that 3/4 of the value produced in the main formats of distribution is generated by the proven renowned brands, the same that are always prepared to constantly invest in communication and innovation.

Recent trends have now demonstrated to us that there is a consumer that is increasingly aiming towards more healthy ways of life, an aspect that obviously has an effect on buying behavior. This situation simply means that the main players on the market will now concentrate their efforts on creating more innovative segments, searching to obtain a store shelf of greater value through the positioning of price at a level that is higher than the market average.

The store shelf and the definition of assortment

Despite this innovative drive at the product and value level, the store shelf of this category remains fairly ‘standardized’ all throughout the peninsula, with the exception of several regional characteristics. It is the latest products and special packs that are essential for the reference brands and mark the difference with the competition. An approach that Giuseppe Spano, salty Snacks Category Manager of Conad Centro Nord, who sees a store shelf “characterized by the presence of innovative brands and by a vertical display for the product and a horizontal one for the brand”.

Unichips, a player that leads the category more than any other (in the face of brands such as: San Carlo, Pai, Highlander, Autentica Trattoria and many others), in the face of massive and ongoing investments in communication and innovation, is the protagonist who in a certain sense is outlining the guide lines of the store shelf, and the racks which will have constantly entering resources in terms of exposure and research; factors in a category that are considered absolutely more vital than price.

“In Conad’s points of sale – continues Spano – potato chips and salty snacks are adjacent to the appetizers and drinks/beers. In the major surfaces, such as the super stores, the layout includes 5 modules with store shelves starting at 133 cm of which 3 are destined to potato chips and 2 to other salty snacks. After years of relative stability of the store shelf, the players now have increased the number of references through the introduction of segments that are more innovative, with a highly crafted component that was designed to monitor the needs of special niches such as organic and vegan.”

In-store promotional activities

Given the “impulsive” nature of the category, the players are well aware of the importance of in-store activities, which is why they try out all the possible levers for increasing engagement: from the extra display to consumer competitions and even price promotions (which is why we have seen it as being the last factor involved in the purchasing process). Among those mentioned above, fundamentally, the positioning of the product off the classic store shelf is what allows the monitoring of the shopper along the entire process, positioning them in the hot spots of the points of sale and in the cross category. From the findings of a recent survey on points of sale of Italian retail chains, up to 10 touch points can be found in just one store.

Growing category

The sales of potato chips in the typical organized retail format is going against the trend compared to many other food categories. In a recent survey of last May, Iri revealed that compared with the previous year – with three main formats: Iper+Super+Lsp – there was an increase in sales of over 4%, both in volume and in value. This growth had mainly affected the segments of flavored and artisan potato chips, with a percentage increase well above the average. Another interesting data was the fact that it was not an occasional growth, but rather long period. In fact, if the given data of today is compared with that of four years ago, one will note there is a total increase of 22.5% in terms of volume.

Numbers, according to geographic area, that depict a picture that is quite diverse. It is interesting to note that 59% of the volume of sales comes from the northern part of the country, for the south has a per capita spending on average that is below the national average. It is a gap that has also been affected by the diverse habits concerning the typical time period of the aperitif. Another important aspect is the strong concentration of assortments. The two main players on the market: Unichips and Amica Chips alone account for nearly 60% of the sales in the category, thus confirming what was explained earlier, namely that we are in the presence of a category where the brand is (almost) considered everything.

SOURCES
GDOWEEK N°14 19th Semptember 2016 – Patatine: nuova vita con il salutismo di Claudio Troiani

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