Back-to-school spurs sales of snacks, lunchbox staples and convenient breakfast options

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Back-to-school spurs sales of snacks, lunchbox staples and convenient breakfast options
Back-to-school season is in full swing, which means parents are stocking up on convenient lunchbox favorites, after school snacks and filling-but-fast breakfast options – helping to fuel a summer high of nearly $15.9 billion worth of fast-moving consumer goods sales in the second week of August, according to Nielsen.

While sales of food and beverages did not account for all 5 billion plus units sold during the week, they did bolster the week’s strong performance, Nielsen noted. In particularly, it reports, popular brown bag categories saw a sizeable lift, including a 9% increase in beverage sales, a 5% uptick in lunch meat sales, 4% increase in prepared foods, and a 3% in salty snacks.

Sandwich bread, which often does double duty at breakfast and lunch, also saw a 2% increase in sales to nearly $142 million during the week ending Aug. 4, according to Nielsen. White bread captured the largest share, but consumers' better-for-you focus also helped drive up sales of more nutrient dense breads. For example, sales of those including quinoa were up 13% from the same period last year, while those with spelt were up 15%, according to Nielsen.

With so much money on the table, manufacturers are scrambling to launch new products that are easy to pack in lunchboxes or tuck into gym bags for on-the-go after school snacking.

Salty snacks snag the most back-to-school sales

In the salty snack category, which is by far the largest of the back-to-school categories bringing in $22.2 billion in the year ending July 28, new launches include:

  • Snackable Notes Frito-Lay Variety Packs​ – For a limited time, some single-serve bags of iconic Cheetos, Doritos and Lay’s chips will feature a talk bubble on the front of the pack where parents can “write a note of love and encouragement”​ for their children to read at launch, according to the manufacturer. Frito-Lay says the concept should help ease the back-to-school transition, which can be tough on parents – 75% of whom told the company that they worry about their children’s happiness while they are at school.
  • Bubba’s Fine Foods’ Macho Nacho ‘Nana Chips​, which adds classic nacho flavoring to green banana chips. The company says their crunchy base is more nutrient dense than the basic potato, but doesn’t compromise flavor or savor.
  • Bubba’s Fine Foods’ Righteous Ranch Snack Mix​, also offers a better-for-you alternative to classic salty snack mixes. It combines the aforementioned banana chips, cashews, pecans and “other righteous stuff,”​ like chives, cilantro, basil and dill for a classic ranch flavor.

Sales of cookies and crackers are up

The cookies and crackers category is the second largest of Nielsen’s back-to-school categories, worth $12.9 billion in sales, which is up 1.5% from the prior year. Newcomers include:

  • Annie’s Gluten-Free Cheddar Bunny Tails​ – While the crackers ditch the gluten, they are still made with real cheddar cheese and deliver the crispy crunch that the brand says fans love. It adds that the new launch will fill a long-time consumer request.
  • Stonyfield Organic Snack Packs – ​The trio of snack packs offer graham crackers and pretzels to replace the need for a spoon to eat either chocolate or strawberry yogurt.
  • Quaker Sandwich Minis – ​Positioned as an on-the-go take on the classic lunch staple of a peanut butter sandwich, a 1.23-ounce pouch of the crunchy whole-grain biscuits spread with peanut butter offers 8 grams of protein, 12 grams of whole grains  and is a good source of fiber. The brand also offers a slightly sweeter option that combines peanut butter with pomegranate.

Peanut butter remains a trusted standby

Speaking of peanut butter sandwiches as a lunchbox classic, Nielsen reports sales of peanut butter are up slightly at 1.1% to $1.8 billion. Long-time category player Skippy also introduced an innovative twist on PB&J with the launch of its Skippy P.B. Fruit Bites​, which are bite-sized balls of peanut butter filled with either grape or strawberry. The new launch complements the brands other P.B. Bites, which include pretzel, granola, graham cracker and double peanut butter.

Don’t forget breakfast

Back to school also means rushed mornings, which means parents are looking for on-the-go options that they can feel good about for both their children and themselves.

Bob’s Red Mill is taking a cue from the wild popularity of individual oatmeal cups and launching three Muesli Cups​, which are low in sugar, high in fiber and have 5-7 grams of protein to help consumers feel full longer. The cups can be prepared with hot water or served cold with yogurt, milk or a dairy drink alternative, according to the company. The cups come in Tropical, original Gluten Free and grain-free Paleo.

Otis Spunkmeyer also is launching a new Delicious Essentials Chocolate Chip Muffin​ to its existing line of ready-to-eat muffins. The company says the new SKU meets “the most stringent school nutrition standards”​ and is made with 50% whole grain.

[Editor's Note: Want to know more about trends impacting what children are eating both at school and at home? Join us in Chicago in November for FoodNavigator-USA's Summit: Food For Kids​. Get all the details and register HERE​.]

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