They have been the essential British snack for decades but now sales of crisps are on the decline for the first time as the popularity of “posh” popcorn soars.
Sales of traditional crisps slumped to £1.34 billion last year from a high of £1.39bn in 2013. Meanwhile, sales of popcorn – driven by brands such as Tyrrels Poshcorn and Propercorn – have soared by 169 per cent over the past five years, according to a report by Mintel.
Sales of other potato-based snacks such as tortilla chips and popped chips overtook sales of potato crisps for the first time last year, with sales rising to £1.39bn.
Luxury popcorn brands have been increasingly seen as a healthier alternative to crisps as a savoury snack. They are often sold in a snack-size bag resembling a packet of crisps and offer both sweet and savoury flavours such as Worcester Sauce and Sun Dried Tomato and Salted Caramel.
However, despite their notoriously unhealthy status, more than four in five people who eat crisps and crisp-style snacks claim that eating crisps is fine as an occasional treat, with just 4 per cent disagreeing. Meanwhile, more than a third of Britons say a sandwich is not the same without crisps on the side.
Amy Price, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel, said: “The crisps market is experiencing deflation, with manufacturers and retailers turning to discounting to drive volumes as part of the supermarket price wars, and the category is losing out to healthier alternatives, such as potato-based snacks. Despite this, the majority of consumers have a relaxed attitude to crisps, agreeing they’re fine to eat as a treat.”
The report showed that just one in eight new snacks launched in 2015 were potato-based – down from one in five in 2010. Popcorn has seen a burst in product innovation, accounting for 7 per cent of snack products launched in the UK in 2015, up from just 3 per cent in 2010.
Ms Price added: “Popcorn is the star growth performer in the crisps, savoury snacks and nut market, more than doubling in size from 2010-15. Popcorn’s health credentials and flavour innovations have helped boost the segment, along with its popularity among younger consumers.”