How Did COVID-19 Impact the Salty Snack Category at C-Stores?

How Did COVID-19 Impact the Salty Snack Category at C-Stores?

By Howard Riell | October 4, 2021

Originally postd on

The pandemic hurt retailers in every channel, including convenience stores — yet the salty snack category has weathered the storm and then some.

For example, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) state of the industry report this year, sales of Frito-Lay legacy brands are up over the past several months, with Lay’s up 32% and Tostitos up 42%.

Being shut up indoors and largely unable to go to restaurants had large numbers of consumers desperate for tasty treats. Salty snacks — chips, popcorn, pretzels, tortilla chips and more — are satisfying at all times, and the introduction of new flavors and formats has served to excite the imaginations of consumers, especially Gen Z and millennials, and even restore a sense of control over one’s life.

The numbers bear out the fact that sales of salty snacks have topped all other snack categories during the pandemic. Research firm Mintel found that the majority of salty snack consumers eat three to four types of snacks in the salty category, while one of five consume eat at least five. Most recently, many consumers seem infatuated with flavors like ghost pepper, habanero, Tabasco, Korean barbecue, wasabi, sriracha and salted caramel.

Indeed, it is a testament to the enduring feel-good quality of trusted brands that sales of private-label salty snacks have fallen during the pandemic. In uncertain times, the numbers clearly indicate that consumers want to maintain a firm grasp on the names they know.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, more consumers than ever are aware of and concerned about their health. It’s no surprise then that more Americans are reaching for better-for-you salty snacks: all-natural, low-sugar, non-GMO and/or contain no synthetics or artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners. As a result, convenience stores are stocking — and finding success with — healthier items with protein and plant-based ingredients like nuts, seeds and trail mixes.

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