Britons are some of the biggest consumers of snack foods and eat over half of all crisps sold in Europe. The snacking phenomenon has firmly established itself in much of the Western world, driven by changing eating patterns and busier lifestyles. Britons spend over £2.5 billion a year on snacks and treats, and nearly half that market is made up of savoury snacks such as potato crisps, salty snacks and nuts.
However, these traditional snacks have come under threat from the expanding range of alternative snacks such as biscuits, cheese, fruit, cereal and salads, which often have a healthier image than their salty counterparts.
Non-potato snacks have also become more popular. These snacks are often made from maize, rice, wheat or a combination. Doritos, composed mainly of maize flour, have been popular ever since their introduction to the UK market in 1994. Such competition has hindered growth over the past five years and is likely to continue to do so.
The geographic spread of industry establishments is dependent on the dispersion of population and on regional share of gross value added, but most importantly on proximity to potato-farming regions. For instance, not a single industry establishment is currently located in London. Locating in the city is not worth the high costs associated with more expensive rent and labour for industry operators because it confers limited additional advantages. Processed products can be transported to population centres such as this with ease, but it is most efficient to source raw potatoes locally.
Ireland has a history of potato growing, and this extends to Northern Ireland. This means that Northern Ireland has a high proportion of potato-processing establishments, at 18.8% of the UK total. The advantage of location in Northern Ireland is not just the potatoes grown here, but also the potatoes that can be cheaply and easily imported from the Republic of Ireland.
The East Midlands and Yorkshire
The East Midlands contains 14.5% of industry establishments. Walkers owns two facilities in Leicester, one of which is the largest crisp factory in the world. Yorkshire also has several notable establishments. McCain has locations in Kingston-Upon-Hull and Scarborough and KP Snacks is headquartered at Rotherham. Both regions contain fertile land that is very suitable for potato cultivation. They also benefit from their proximity to major population centres, particularly the West Midlands, West Yorkshire and the North West.
In response to greater health awareness and the need for innovation, firms have brought out a wide range of new products. These include low-fat varieties of traditional products, such as the Walkers Mighty Lights range, with innovative packaging improvements that aid storage and on-the-go consumption. Producers of frozen chips and savouries have also adopted new strategies. McCain has focused its marketing on emphasising the quality and freshness of the British potatoes it uses, while also using sunflower oil to process most of its products. Smaller players like Kettle offer premium potato crisps manufactured from high-quality ingredients and market these products as an indulgence for adult consumers.
Minority ethnic groups comprise approximately 14% of the UK population. Immigration has brought new flavours, tastes and cuisines. Many food manufacturers have incorporated foreign recipes into their products, such as Kettle's Sweet Red Pepper Salsa crisps. These gourmet products are targeted at adult consumers looking for high-quality products that are fresh and innovative, despite being more expensive than their mainstream or own-label counterparts. Since nine in 10 British adults eat snacks between meals, as a result of the continued trend towards snacking, these innovative products have helped to drive growth. Firms have made more of an effort to target home-dining consumers as a result of the recession. This has come in the form of increased and more varied multipack offerings in the crisp segment.