The European market for frozen snacks and appetizers remains small compared with its US equivalent, which is the world’s largest by some margin. Retail sales of frozen snacks, appetizers and hand-held entrees in the US via mainstream grocery stores are worth approximately USD1bn per annum, although the market has been broadly static in recent years – much of this can be attributed to the growing consumer demand for fresh/chilled snacks, rather than frozen, even though penetration of frozen snacks amongst US households remains over a third.
The considerable size of the US market is partly due to the strength and widespread presence of brands such as Nestlé’s Hot Pockets. This range of hot-eating rolls and sandwiches has traditionally been targeted at on-the-go lifestyles, having recently been revamped in a bid to appeal to younger generations. Although hot-eating and/or microwaveable snacks are increasing in number in many European markets, many are supplied in chilled, rather than frozen format.
The UK has one of Europe’s largest markets for microwaveable hot-eating snacks, with sales worth an estimated GBP125m in 2017. Approximately one in five UK households currently buys into the category, with sales growing by around 5% per year. Many products are targeted at the 16-24 age range, indicating that younger consumers are much less likely to observe traditional eating patterns. One of the market’s leading suppliers is Kepak Convenience Foods, whose portfolio includes the Rustlers, Feasters and Speedy Snacks brands. Products include burgers, sub rolls, paninis and sandwiches.
The trend towards mini-meals is likely to stimulate demand for bite-sized foods in various sectors of the frozen foods industry. Other important components of the frozen snacks and appetizers market therefore include meat and seafood products (e.g. breaded and battered varieties), as well as certain bite-sized vegetable and potato-based lines (e.g. wedges). To these can be added smaller and/or scaled-down pizza products, which are increasingly being positioned as snacks.