MARKHAM, Ontario -- A new frozen snack category management program that has been successful at Sobeys, Stellarton, Nova Scotia, will be launched at three other Canadian retailers.
The program, offered by Pillsbury Canada here, will be tested throughout the summer in several units in all three chains.
Peter Townsend, senior category manager at Pillsbury here, declined to name the supermarkets involved, except to say they are located in Ontario and Western Canada. Called "The Hot Snack Zone," the approach creates a highly visible snack section in the frozen aisle, encompassing an average of six to nine freezer doors.
It incorporates a wide variety of items, from hand-held sandwiches to toaster strudels. According to Townsend, the snacking occasion for a wide array of foods is the same, so that so-called breakfast items may be consumed as readily as a hot sub sandwich, or for that matter, egg rolls or potato skins.
As reported in SN, the assortment includes products from Pillsbury and several other manufacturers.
According to Townsend, Pillsbury made the decision to create a snack category in the frozen aisle based on research that shows an increase in a middle-ground eating occasion -- in-between snacking and a sit-down, main meal.
While in 1986, 46% of consumers agreed a full meal was important, in 1996, only 27% agreed, according to a study by NPD, Rosemont, Ill. In comparison, a usage and attitude survey by Canadian Facts, Ontario, noted that "grazing" is becoming a way of life, and that teens, on average, eat 18 snacks a week, while adults eat 13.
"In the middle ground you've got filler or fragmented meals; consumers are looking for convenient, versatile foods that fill a hectic eating occasion. This is satisfied by snacks," Townsend said.
Historically, the freezer has been the last place people look for snacks. Pillsbury hopes to turn that around through the use of Hot Snack Zone point-of-sale material and merchandising plans.
Some of the sections at Sobey's, for example, have eye-catching signage. A large, lettered banner in green and white runs across the top of the doors where the snacks are located.
"There's a low awareness of snacks in the freezer section, so promotional material is used to make it more top of mind with consumers," Townsend said.
By combining a wide array of snacks, Pillsbury hopes to redefine the frozen snack category.
"As category manager [of the Hot Snack Zone], we are building a mutually profitable business, and our approach is wider than using just our own brands," Townsend added.
Any snack that is grab-and-go, somewhat portable and warm and filling, fits the category. Other characteristics of items in the Hot Snack Zone is that they are often impulse items, and they fit in with consumers' "flexible consumption periods."
Preliminary data from the Sobeys programs show that more consumers are entering the snack category and, once there, are making more purchases.