Crisps: an icon for the British Consumer

August 6, 2012
4 min read

When I moved to England a few years ago from Italy, the discovery of local customs was a culturally enriching experience. Even the small details of daily life, which could appear banal to most – for example, the whole art of queuing, anywhere and for whatever reason – as well as the renowned politeness of the nation, are not to be taken for granted by foreigners. Other aspects of life here, such as learning to look to the right before crossing the road have more to do with practical survival skills. But above all, life in the UK can be something of a gastronomic experience.

British Consumers & Crisp Eating Habits

Still now, after several years here, there is always something new and interesting to learn. Take for example a normal work day lunch break. If you observe Brits’ lunch habits, you’ll discover the obsession of the Nation for crisps. While, according to Mintel’s latest research into savoury snacks, the vast majority (76%) of Brits would typically lunch on a sandwich – or roll or wrap – 40% will include a packet of crisps or salty snacks as part of their packed lunch. While a huge majority of the UK population (84%) eat crisps, 12% do it as often as once a day or more and 28% around two or three times per week. And while two in five (40%) eat crisps and salty snacks as part of their lunch, the evening appears to be the best time for crisp consumption, with over seven in ten (71%) doing so, while over a third (36%) prefer to eat them as an afternoon snack.

Not even a double dip recession has managed to halt the market, which was valued at £1.3 billion in 2011 – a growth of 27% since 2006. Indeed, the market has certainly seen some factors turn in its favour, such as the trend towards consumers staying at home to save money during times of economic hardship, as well the “affordable treat” factor, with 47% of consumers claiming to treat themselves to unhealthy foods. And just to put it into context, Brits splashed £655 million on tea (in-home consumption) and £3.3 billion on milk last year.

Moreover, the sheer number of packets on supermarket’s shelves reinforces the idea of crisps as a national treasure, with product launches registering an increase of 6.5% from 2007 to 2011. There is also the incredible variety of flavours, which tailor to every kind of taste. 

And when it comes to their favourite place to nibble on crisps and salty snacks, it seems that for the majority (95%) of consumers nothing beats the comfort of home, and for over half (52%) the best time or place for having crisps is in front of the TV. Even when on the go, a third (33%) of Brits who eat crisps refuse to put down their favourite snack, while for 32%, having a packet of crisps is an integral part of the pub experience.

Other Savoury and Salty Favourites

However, crisps are not the only savoury snack to be held close to the heart of Brits. They are now under increasing pressure from new ranges of products such as popcorn, which was considered the real star performer of the salty snacks category in 2011. Last year, 39% Brits had popcorn, a 15 percent increase from the previous year, boosting the segment to the fifth most popular type of salty snack in the UK.

In my personal experience, I’ve never seen a country such in love with this salty snack, which – I believe – should be added to the iconic imagery of the UK, along with the Queen, the Big Ben and red double-decker buses. As for me, I won’t swap my traditional Italian habits in the kitchen and would carry on eating crisps just for aperitivo. However, I must admit that Brits do it better when it comes to crisps – and have been won over by the taste test of them here compared to Italy!

Read the full report on Crisps, Salty Snacks and Nuts in the UK or contact us for further information.

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