Walker Crisps control the largest part of the crisps market in the United Kingdom, but lost significant market share three years ago when consumers began turning to other forms of snack. Furthermore, as the populace is made increasingly aware of the poor nutrition of some snack foods, the high salt content, and high fat content, they appear to be turning away from brands perceived as less healthy. Unfortunately, despite a revamping of products in 2006, most crisps products are viewed as less healthy and nutritious than alternatives such as cereal bars.
National campaigns designed to improve the quality of school lunches were effective at turning parents away from crisps as a lunchbox staple and adult health campaign have lead people to consider other snack options including fruits, nuts, yogurt and cereal bars. In addition, there is some indication that a declining birth rate has also negatively impacted demand for crisps as they tend to be most popular among the males in their teens and early twenties. Older and more affluent snackers choose other options including specialty, private label crisps, corn-based snacks and gourmet crisps with exotic flavors.
It also seems clear from evidenced reported by Mintel analysis of the snack food market that there are some areas in which crisps cannot compete, as some consumers, particularly women seem attached to chocolate and sweet biscuits as a preferred indulgent snack. And, there is a marketing nightmare brewing. While crisps must shed their image as fatty, over-salted snacks with no nutritional value if they are to maintain their market share in a health-conscious environment, evidence suggests that men in particular do not want to eat something labeled as “diet” or “healthy”.
The key appears to be a serious media campaign to change the way people think about crisps. Evidence suggestions that the three trends most likely to impact the crisps market are: a desire to purchase healthier snacks, a desire for classier snacks, and a desire to eliminate snacking in general. The Move toward Healthier Snacks The evidence is clear that the trend in snacking is to find healthier alternatives. Walker crisps was able to regain some of its lost market share in 2006 with the introduction and promotion of healthier, “baked” varieties, but still faces an uphill battle.
In a recent poll, nearly half of the consumers questioned said they would be willing to spend more to be able to buy foods that were free from chemical additives (Mintel, 2007). Since many so-called “diet” foods are laden with chemicals ranging from preservatives to artificial sweeteners, this may be a market niche that Walkers could exploit with an all-natural crisp. However, it will take a serious marketing campaign to educate consumers about the “dangers’ hidden in other snack foods.
Mintel’s analysis of Walkers marketing expenditures over the last three years has indicated that they have begun to see the value of print advertising that explains the benefits of their newer, “healthier” product lines. However, it seems likely that Walkers will have to consider a new multimedia advertising campaign that redirects the way people think about crisps. A strict marketing campaign that shows crisp consumption as part of a healthy diet could also help the company retain market share.
Currently, consumers are increasingly turning to other snack options in the belief that they are healthier than crisps. It might be advantageous to do a head to head comparison between crisps and several other snacks demonstrating the relative fat content, calories and other nutritional information. For example, the Mintel study showed that 23 percent of consumers snack on cereal bars, often in the belief that they are a healthy sack.
However, reading a product label makes it clear that the average cereal bar has as many calories and carbohydrates as a bag of baked crisps. Walkers also needs to continue with current advertising campaigns which explain the change in oils used to create the crisps and the reduction in salt. All of these combined attacks on accepted nutritional ideas can help to recreate crisps in the minds of the consumer. Furthermore, Mintel analysis shows that consumers are less likely to buy branded products or healthy products when buying for use in entertaining.
As part of their overall health campaign, Walkers might want to consider an advertising campaign similar to the ones used by American beer companies. “Friends don’t let friends drink bad beer” could become something along the lines of “Show your friends you have great taste, buy walker crisps. ” Though the concept is a bit loose, it could be refined and would likely results in increased sales for Walkers. The Move to Classier Snacks Another interesting trend within snack food is the move toward hand-cooked or gourmet crisps.
These premium brands tend to be smaller manufacturers instead of multinational corporations like Walkers, which is a division of PepsiCo. These brands are gaining in popularity among more affluent, educated consumers. They have shown a preference for exotic flavors like “Thai sweet chili” and sea salt and malt vinegar instead of the standard crisps (Mintel, 2007). To that end, it is in the best interest of Walkers to continue to expand their line of premium crisps and to develop new flavors that are likely to appeal to consumers.
Within this market, it is also important to appeal to the health conscious consumer, so any effort that can be made to create these new flavors using infused oils and natural spices instead of something cooked up with chemicals is a plus (Mintel, 2007). These consumers are more educated and therefore more likely to be well-informed about the products that they are putting into their bodies. These consumers are in many ways the perfect target for an educational advertising campaign which asks why they are depriving themselves of the textures and flavors they love just so that they can eat a cereal bar that tastes like cardboard.
This is also a good market to explore because this demographic is less concerned about the price and more concerned about giving themselves a special treat. Often, hey view everything they eat, drink and wear as a form of status symbol and Walkers would do well to establish their premiums brands within this niche. An advertising campaign that reminds consumers that doing something nice for themselves should also taste good would play well to this demographic. The Move Away from Snacking
As part of a health-consciousness campaign, citizens of the United Kingdom are being taught that snacking between meals is leading to the Britain’s obesity problem and should be cut out (Mintel, 2007). According to the Mintel poll, fewer people every year admit to eating between meals. While this may be a factor of people not admitting to themselves what their true behavior patterns are, it can mean that they are not planning ahead for snacking and not purchasing traditional snack foods like crisps. One of the best ways to deal with this would be another form of reeducation for the populace.
Though dietary requirements are in an ever-changing state of flux as science learns more and more about how the body works, many diets argue that five or six small meals a day maintain blood sugar levels better than the traditional three meals a day. So, even if the addition is simply mid-morning and afternoon tea, Walkers and other snack providers need to change the way the United Kingdom thinks about snacks. Again, the goal is not to have crisps replace full meals like breakfast, but crisps with tea might be a marketing ploy that Walkers could successfully market especially in terms of their premium, exotic brands.
Acknowledging that they are competing with scones and sweet biscuits and everything else for every moment the consumer chooses a snack is imperative to Walkers efforts to maintain their market share. Conclusions The simple truth is that snack foods are facing an increased amount of competition every day with more and more companies looking for alternatives to the standard potato crisp. Therefore, companies which rely on crisps as a major segment of their brand identity must find new ways to market and appeal to consumers.
Since we have established that current buying behavior seems to be based on perceived nutritional value, perceived class and the perception that snacking makes you fat, an aggressive marketing campaign designed to challenge these notions and change them is necessary. Walks must change the perception of crisps as an unhealthy waste of calories and a blase snack. They must jazz it up and create a desire for people to incorporate crisps into their daily diet. Otherwise, they will continue to watch their market share slip away.
“Crisps and Snacks”, Mintel Reports, May, 2007.