“It’ll spoil your dinner,” may be what your parents told you about snacking, but no one seems to have listened.
The Hershey Company and Campbell Soup both struck multi-billion dollar deals on Monday to buy rival snack firms.
Hershey said its $1.6bn (£1.2bn) purchase of popcorn and Tyrrells crisps maker Amplify would help turn it into “a snacking powerhouse”.
Meanwhile, Campbell Soup said it would splash $4.89bn on tortilla chip and pretzel crisps maker Snyder’s-Lance.
Both deals show how US firms are increasingly trying to cope with a shift in buying habits, with many people favouring smaller, more artisanal brands as well as food that is perceived to be healthier.
Amplify’s popcorn brand Skinny Pop advertises itself as “a tasty, guilt-free snack”. The firm also owns Otmega bars which are made with whey protein from grass-fed cows in New Zealand, and upmarket UK crisp brand Tyrrells.
Tyrrells, which was sold to Amplify in August last year by private equity firm Langholm Capital, was founded on a Herefordshire farm by William Chase in 2003.
Synder’s-Lace also boasts of its health credentials saying its brands, which include Kettle Chips, offer “healthy snack choices” that provide the “perfect amount of portable fuel”.
Health concerns aside, crisps are the one snack which many see as “an especially permissible indulgence” according to market research firm Mintel.
It estimates that crisps and dips sales totalled $16.8bn last year in the US, up around 19% from 2011 when it last measured the sector.
Mintel said younger people aged between 18-34 were more adventurous and willing to buy a wider variety of crisps and dips than older customers.
It’s a market both Campbell Soup and Hershey are trying to tap into.
Campbell Soup chief executive Denise Morrison said its purchase of Synder’s-Lance would “dramatically transform” the company.
If Campbell Soup had already owned Synder-Lance in 2017 then almost half of its sales for the financial year would have come from snacks, up from just under a third, the firm said.
Similarly, Hershey chief executive Michele Buck said broadening its portfolio would enable it to “capture more consumer snacking occasions”.