Potato chip sales surge

Posted by Isobel Drake on 29th September 2009

After years of mediocre sales, the potato chip market came alive again during the global downturn, according to market research firm Mintel, with sales jumping 22%*.

In addition, other salty snacks experienced recession-fueled sales surges. The tortilla chip market increased by 18% since 2007, while smaller segments like popcorn and cheese snacks saw similar gains (17% and 20%, respectively). Now that economic recovery is starting to take hold, however, Mintel expects sales increases to taper. Over the next five years, potato chip sales are expected to rise just above 3% annually, while tortilla chip sales should increase just above 4%.

“People bought more chips during the recession because they’re a good value,” Chris Haack, senior analyst at Mintel, suggested. “As the economy gets stronger, we expect annual sales increases to slow, but we don’t expect markets to contract. New product innovations and the changed eating habits of (consumers) will keep shoppers headed towards the snack aisle.”

A daily dose of chips?

It’s not the most healthy habit, but according to Mintel’s American-based research, 50% of kids, teens and 18-24s say they eat salty snacks five times a week or more. Even adults say they eat salty snacks 4.8 times per week on average, nearly once a day.

“Salty snacks are clearly embedded … and they’re used by all ages as a way to curb off hunger between meals or after dinner,” Mr Haack noted. “But at the same time, there is growing interest in healthier snack options.”

Mintel’s survey shows that two in three (65%) adults say that they’re interested in healthier snacks, such as grain or baked varieties, while another 57% say they’re interested in healthier alternatives to salty snacks, like pita chips or crackers. However, half of survey respondents confess they think lower fat/sodium snacks don’t taste as good as the originals.

*Sales increases compare 2007 market data against Mintel’s market estimate for full-year 2009.