Top Super Bowl snacks underscore competition between conventional & better-for-you options

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: iStock
Source: iStock

Related tags Super bowl Processed cheese

Consumers may be reaching for more natural and better-for-you snacks in general, but when it comes to planning Super Bowl party menus they are just as likely to reach for processed and conventional options as they are healthier options, according to IRI data.

IRI analysis of retail food sales in the week leading up to last year’s Super Bowl revealed sales of natural cheese jumped 10% to a whopping $277 million compared to the prior week. But this increase is nothing compared to the nearly 31% spike in sales of cream cheese to $34 million and the 19% increase of processed cheese to $69 million revealed by the data.

While IRI did not look at the why behind the buy, the sales growth rate at which cream cheese and processed cheese outpaced that of natural cheese in the week leading up to the Super Bowl “makes sense”​ and “is likely due to dips and recipes that use processed cheese/cheese spreads,”​ Susan Viamari, VP of Though Leadership at IRI, told FoodNavigator-USA.

Heavy advertising of processed and cream cheese leading up to the Super Bowl along with nostalgia for classic, indulgent recipes likely influences consumers’ desire for these products, even if they normally opt for more natural choices.

For example, Kraft began advertising in October its processed cheese product Velveeta as a must have ingredient along with ConAgra Foods’ Ro Tel tomatoes to “blow away”​ Super Bowl party guests with their “famous queso dip,”​ which is a staple snack at many big game viewing events.

Likewise, makers of cream cheese have been seeding recipes that call for their branded ingredient in social and traditional media for weeks leading up to the big game.

Sales of dips surge

Another category that likely will see a big sales lift in the week leading up to the Super Bowl is dips and spreads – the sales growth of which, like cheese, will be split between fresh refrigerated products and shelf stable options, according to IRI data.

IRI found last year sales of refrigerated dips increased about 48% to $21 million in the week leading up to the Super Bowl – barely edging out a 45% lift for shelf stable dips and dip mixes, which reached $13 million. Refrigerated spreads also climbed 13% to about $20.2 million, IRI notes.

It adds that these sale changes were the most dramatic of any category leading up to the Super Bowl last year.

Salty snacks sneak higher

Sales of salty snacks, which often complement dips, also surged 14% to $437.7 million in the week leading up to the Super Bowl last year compared to the prior week according to IRI.

In general, this category is a virtual battle ground between conventional and better-for-you options.

“Our general snacking research finds that some consumers are looking for healthier options,” ​such as veggies for dip, but “others are quite content with the standard potato or corn chip,”​ Viamari said.

Indeed, she suggested, conventional products might have a slight edge given that “after several years of ‘healthier’ snacks outpacing ‘indulgent’ snacks, indulgent made a bit of a rebound last year,”​ with year-over-year snack dollar sales growing 3.1% for indulgent options compared to 2.5% for healthier ones.

Hain Celestial is among the many manufacturers hoping consumers will choose its better-for-you options to scoop dip at Super Bowl parties. To generate excitement, it just launched Garden of Eatin’ Bowls Corn Tortilla Chips, which it says are “great dippers”​ and are organic, kosher and gluten-free.

It also is promoting its Sensible Portions Stackable Garden Veggie chips as a better-for-you option with 30% less fat per serving than leading potato chips.

While new, these products are still up against classic conventional snacks, such as Doritos – a behemoth that has been aggressively advertising its products for months through its now iconic “Crash the Super Bowl”​ television commercial competition.

Beer: the beverage of choice

To wash down all these snacks, most consumers will reach for a beer, IRI data suggests.

“Beer is the number one product category by sales dollars, generating $583 million in sales the week prior to the NFL’s flagship event”​ last year, IRI noted. This far outpaced liquor, which saw sales reach only $109 million during the same period.

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