What’s Going on With Salty Snacks

The category hasn’t stopped growing since its pandemic comeback, and spicy flavors reign on.

February 13, 2023

By Sara Counihan

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—It’s a comeback story for salty snacks. In 2021, the salty snacks category was up 11.3% over 2020, and in-store sales averaged $7,913 per store, per month, according to the NACS State of the Industry (SOI) Report of 2021 Data. That growth continued into 2022. In fact, the first three quarters of 2022 showed even stronger improvement for salty snacks than in 2021, according to CSX monthly data. The category saw double-digit growth during that period, trending above 2019, 2020 and 2021 numbers.

“In 2020, people were working from home, so they weren’t going out to grab a snack during the middle of the day or on their way to and from their workplace,” said Jayme Gough, NACS research manager. “But 2021 was a phenomenal bounceback year for all in-store categories, including salty snacks, and 2022 to date has delivered even more growth for the category.”

Salty snacks made up 4.36% of inside sales in convenience stores in 2021, and though that may be a small contribution, gross margins in the category were mighty. C-store salty snacks saw gross margins of 40.83% on average in 2021, up 0.93 point year over year. Gross profit was up 13.9% in 2021 over 2020, averaging $3,231 per store, per month, and gross margin contribution was also up 0.26 point year over year to 5.19%.


The potato chips subcategory accounted for the largest percentage of category sales at 38.5%, according to 2021 NACS SOI data. The subcategory increased sales year over year by 8.1% and gross profits by 11.1%.

“Potato chips are a staple for convenience stores and a profit driver,” said Gough. “We’re seeing a ton of innovation in this subcategory, including spicy, limited-edition flavors and international flavors.”

Gough also pointed to strategic partnerships that are emerging in the salty snacks category overall, and in particular, the potato chips subcategory. In 2021, Kellogg’s partnered with Wendy’s on a co-branded Pringles chip flavor called Wendy’s Spicy Chicken, following a successful collab on a Wendy’s Baconator-flavored Pringles chip in 2020.

“Chips remain one of the most versatile products when it comes to flavors,” said Gough. “There are options for everyone.”

According to Nick Hammitt, vice president, salty snacks, Campbell Soup Company, the company’s Kettle Brand and Cape Cod brands are performing exceptionally well.

“Both brands ranked in the top 15 for growth in total convenience among leading potato chip brands,” said Hammitt. “We continue to see strong growth and demand for our many salty snack brands, including potato chips, with Kettle Brand achieving double-digit growth in 2022.”

Read the remainder of this month’s Category Close-Up, “A Spicier Comeback,” in the February issue of NACS Magazine.

Sara Counihan is contributing editor of NACS Magazine and NACS Daily. She can be reached at scounihan@convenience.org.