Canadian Pizza Magazine

Marketing insights: The snack attack

Michelle Brisebois   

Features Business and Operations Marketing

When our mothers told us not to eat between meals because it might ruin our appetites, they didn’t see the future coming.

When our mothers told us not to eat between meals because it might ruin our appetites, they didn’t see the future coming. Those sit down meals served at 5 p.m. sharp aren’t as much of a daily occurrence any more, as families zoom from one appointment to another. With this cultural shift comes a huge opportunity for food service, and for pizza especially. Today, snacking occasions offer a whole new part of the day to target. Since pizza is the chameleon of the menu, shapeshifting into a whole host of sweet and savoury snacking options, it’s simply a matter of focusing on portion size, portability and variety.

The research seems to confirm that snacking is on the increase, but the key for the foodservice industry will be to zero in on the right day part. The NPD Group predicts that snacking as a form of food consumption is on the rise. In their report, A Look into the Future of Eating, NPD forecasts that snacking occasions will grow by double digits in the next decade. They report that by 2018, the total number of in-home snack occasions will increase by 19 per cent over 2008. The morning snack is projected to increase by 23 per cent, and in-home afternoon snacking is expected to grow by 20 per cent over eating occasions in 2008. Evening snacking is forecasted to increase by 15 per cent in the next ten years.

Snacks have traditionally been left to the quick service, vending or convenience store sectors but the research indicates that restaurants are benefiting from a snack-based strategy. Mintel Menu Insights reported in May that snacking is gaining prominence on America’s menus. Menu items described as “snack,” “snackable,” or “snacker” have increased by 170 per cent since 2007 and growth is expected to continue. Mintel goes on to say: “Snacks are providing a huge opportunity right now for restaurants ranging from quick service to fine dining. By creating innovative menus with various snacking options, restaurants can boost sales throughout the day and drive guest traffic during non-peak hours.” Early morning and mid-afternoon appear to be the sweet spot, as consumers are more likely to visit restaurants during these time periods for snacks. Late afternoon, pegged as the 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. time slot, is identified as being most popular with 37 per cent of Mintel’s respondents. People open their wallets more towards the early evening. Only 19 per cent of respondents purchased snacks from a restaurant between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., but the average amount spent was $4.26 per person, versus only $3.79 across all other time periods.


When targeting the consumer in search of a snack, it’s important to realize that this snack may be an impulse buy, and that snacks are more likely than not to be consumed away from the restaurant. Options that appeal to impulse and provide portability are most likely to succeed as snacks. Rich Products of Canada reports in their summer issue of Rich Insights that “Cravings strongly influence consumers’ decision to purchase pizza: 55 per cent of those polled say their most recent away-from-home pizza purchase was driven by a craving. Convenience also plays a strong role in the pizza-purchasing decision: more than one-quarter of respondents (27 per cent) report that they ordered pizza most recently because they did not want to cook and preferred to pick up their food or have it delivered. About one-fifth of those polled (17 per cent) indicate that they ordered a pizza because it offered an appealing price.”

The use of the word mini on menus is also a rising trend. Adam M. Grieco, associate marketing manager for Rich Products of Canada, says they have seen a 12.5 per cent increase in the term mini on menus in the U.S. pizza segment (from 88 menu appearances in 2009, to 99 in 2010). If you’re collecting e-mail addresses or smartphone numbers, consider sending a digital message late morning designed to highlight some pizza snacks. Your standard crust decked out with cream cheese and fresh fruit and topped with a glaze will make a wonderful late morning option for those with a sweet tooth. For those customers who like savoury items, pizza pockets, mini pizzas, and of course, the tried and true single-slice all fit the bill nicely.

Busy parents love a quick, healthy snacks for kids’ lunches or their own late night cravings. You could have your pizza snacks packaged and ready to grab as customers pay for their regular pizzas at suppertime. It’s a great way to add on something extra to increase the cheque average. Signage at the cash that simply says “Got cravings? Try our new savoury pizza sticks” will plant the seeds for the next time folks are jonesing for something to nosh on.

Snacks are spontaneous by nature. They don’t follow a regular pattern in terms of timing or taste profile. The trick is to make people aware that you have tasty, innovative, portable options and look to late morning and afternoon for the peak times. Snacking is a big business that’s getting bigger all the time. Thank goodness we don’t always take all of mom’s advice!

Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical, financial services and wine industries. She specializes in retail brand strategies.

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