21 March 2007, 15:19 PM
  • A gap in the market for snack food that is simultaneously convenient, healthy and indulgent is ripe for exploitation by canny retailers, according to a new report from analyst group, Datamonitor.

Rapidly changing lifestyles have led to a more hectic and hurried daily routine for most consumers. This in turn has impacted upon snacking habits and resulted in on-the-go customers turning to quick, easy and convenient eating.

Datamonitor forecourts analyst, Ricky Hill, said, “There has been a rise in so-called ‘flexi-eating’, whereby food consumption is increasingly adapted to people’s needs and lifestyles, rather than people fitting their lives around structured mealtimes.”

But with consumers equally prioritising health and indulgence, the convenience snack market is having to offer more than a quick sandwich or biscuit.

In its report into service station retailing, Datamonitor noted the rising popularity of cereal bars and chilled ready meals - sectors which have seen significant growth throughout Europe and are set to expand at a year-on-year rate of at least six percent over the next few years. Cereal bars in particular are expected to be the boom niche with average annual growth of seven percent between 2005 and 2010.

According to the research, snacking options are either healthy or indulgent, with very few products combining both characteristics. Mr Hill said, “Consumers often need to choose between the two desires and more often than not it is the indulgent varieties of food that are available in on-the-go channels, such as service stations.”

As consumers lose their taste for traditional snacks such as chocolate bars, sandwiches and crisps, the market must adapt to meet changing demands. The analyst firm suggests that forecourt retailers are well placed to target the trends for health, indulgence and convenience by providing snack options that tick all three boxes such as sushi.